Rechristening West Bengal: Centre says no nod given; Mamata writes to PM

New Delhi/Kolkata | The Centre Wednesday informed Rajya Sabha that it has not yet given its nod to rechristen West Bengal to ‘Bangla’ as proposed by the state government, following which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for necessary action including a constitutional amendment in the ongoing Parliament session.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai in a written response to a question from MP Ritabrata Banerjee said the Centre has not cleared the name ‘Bangla’ for West Bengal.

Changing a state’s name requires constitutional amendment and it is done after taking into consideration all relevant factors, he said.

On July 26 last year, the West Bengal assembly had passed a resolution unanimously to change the name of the state to ‘Bangla’ in the three most-spoken languages — Bengali, Hindi and English — and had sent the proposal to the Home Ministry.

It suggested ‘Paschimbanga’ in 2011, but it was turned down by the central government.

In 2016, it proposed ‘Bengal’ in English, ‘Bangla’ in Bengali and ‘Bangal’ in Hindi, which was also turned down. Finally, it proposed the name ‘Bangla’.

When the earlier proposals were received, there was objection from the central government that suggested the name ‘Bangla’ had similarity to Bangladesh and it would be difficult to differentiate the two at international forums, a senior official privy to the developments said.

The 2018 proposal was also referred to the Ministry of External Affairs for its view.

The move to rename is aimed at climbing the alphabetical sequence of state names in which West Bengal appears last in the list now.

Later in the day, Mamata Banerjee wrote a letter to Modi seeking early completion of formalities for a constitutional amendment.

“The name West Bengal is in English and Paschim Banga in Bengali, and it does not bear the testimony of the classical history that our state has… Name of the state should invoke a strong sense of identity and its people and this identity can be formed is the states name carries the signature of its history and the culture,” Mamata Banerjee said in the letter.

She said last year, her government had requested Modi to initiate necessary action to change the name of the state.

“You will kindly appreciate that we have, therefore, been accepting all advices of this government of India for getting the change in the name of our state accepted in the Parliament of India,” she wrote.

“I would again request you to kindly accept the wishes of the people of West Bengal, enshrined in the resolution of the West Bengal legislative assembly and in the proportion of the West Bengal Cabinet, to rename our state as Bangla in English, Hindi and Bengali.

“This rechristening will be in consonance with the history, culture and the identity of our state and will reflect aspirations of our people,” she said making a strong case for the name change.

“People should not forget about the contribution of Bangla. Renaissance, social reformation all started from Bangla. There is Punjab province in Pakistan and one in India… So if that is not a problem what is the issue of having the name of Bangla.

“We do not want to create controversy into it and will request the Centre to quicken the process of changing the name of the state,” a source close to the Mamata Banerjee said.

The last time the name of a state was changed was in 2011, when Orissa became Odisha.

Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995, Madras as Chennai in 1996 and Calcutta as Kolkata in 2001.

The central government had approved name changes for 11 cities in Karnataka, including that of Bangalore to Bengaluru, in 2014.

Opposition Congress and the CPI(M) supported the name change proposal.

“The Centre cannot deny the wishes of the people of West Bengal. What were they doing when the name of Orissa was changed to Odisha, Madras to Chennai, Bombay to Mumbai…

“This is nothing but an insult to the people of the state,” Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Abdul Mannan said.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty echoed Mannan’s views and said it was a “politically motivated move” by the Centre.

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