Mumbai: Politics and the art of playing the rename game

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 - 11:36am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Observers opine that assertion of identities by social groups could end up causing friction in society.

What’s common among varsities of Mumbai, Pune and Solapur; Dadar, Mumbai Central and Nagpur railway stations? They’re part of politics of renaming in the state, with organisations and political parties seeking that they be named after social and historic icons.

While the Satyashodhak OBC Parishad wants that University of Mumbai named after poet-saint Tukaram and Solapur varsity after warrior-queen Ahilyabai Holkar, Dalit groups want Dadar station to be named as Chaityabhoomi after the nearby memorial to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, while Shiv Sena wants Mumbai Central to be named after philanthropist Jagannath ‘Nana’ Shankarseth.

Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale’s RPI wants the station to be identified with Ambedkar.

Shiv Sena’s rule in the state (1995-99) saw Bombay renamed Mumbai, and VT station and the airport renamed after Chhatrapati Shivaji.

Observers say that as social groups assert their identity in the social realm, more such demands may be made – some may also cause social friction. The 16-year struggle to rename Marathwada university after Ambedkar saw violence against Dalits.

“This is an issue of pride for the Bahujan Samaj,” said Hanumant Upre of Satyashodhak OBC Parishad.

Late BSP chief Kanshi Ram, whose political activism  started in Pune, had sought that the Pune university be named after Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj while some wanted it named after Rajmata Jijabai, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mother.

“Our history must be acknowledged. People must know the work done by icons like Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj,” said Sena leader and Aurangabad MP, Chandrakant Khaire.

“This is just mob politics and (attempts at establishing an) intellectual hegemony,” said Pune-based social activist Vishwambhar Choudhari, calling these demands “a battle of identity.”

“I am not opposed to Pune university’s name being changed, but it’s necessary to focus on standards,” said Choudhari, questioning why politicians did not name their institutions after icons.

“This shows awareness in various social groups,” said B.V Bhosale, professor, department of sociology, University of Mumbai, adding that this was a part of these groups in establishing their identity. “When these demands come forward, these groups feel empowered... and it creates a feeling of inclusion,” he said.

“This is a battle for symbols and a competition around such icons,” said Surendra Jondhale, professor, department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai, adding that organisations making such renaming demands were more concerned about fulfilling their socio-political ambitions.

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