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Renaming India: Saffronisation of public spaces

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12.10.2018

In August 2018, India's Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government renamed the historic Mughalsarai Junction Railway Station in the state of Uttar Pradesh after the right-wing Hindu ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, most likely because the existing name referred to the Indian Muslim Mughal dynasty.

Three years earlier, in May 2015, many street signs in New Delhi carrying Urdu/Muslim names including Aurangzeb Road, named after the sixth Mughal emperor, were painted black by Shiv Sena Hindustan, a radical Hindu organisation. Later in that year, the ruling BJP officially changed the name of the Aurangzeb Road to A P J Abdul Kalam, a pro-BJP ex-president of India.

In April 2016, the BJP government in Haryana renamed the city of Gurgaon as Gurugram, after Guru Dronacharya, an upper caste Hindu figure from the epic Mahabharata, who is viewed as a villain by India's Dalits.

Last month, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh proposed to rename airports in the towns of Bareilly, Kanpur, and Agra. The proposed new names of two of the three airports have apparent Hindu overtones. Bareilly is to be renamed Nath Nagri, after the Hindu Nath sect. The Hindu politician Yogi Adityanath, the current Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, known for his brazen Islamophobia, belongs to this sect. The Agra airport, on the other hand, is to be renamed after the Hindutva ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, just like the Mughalsarai Railway Station.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, also demands many other places with Muslim names, including the cities of Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, and Aurangabad, to be renamed.

Renaming of cities, streets or landmarks is not an act exclusive to India or the BJP.

The city that was known as St Petersburg in imperial Russia was renamed Petrograd in 1914 at the start of World War I because authorities thought its original........

© Al Jazeera