Dropping names: Intellectuals divided on renaming West Bengal

July 10th, 2011 - 1:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, July 10 (IANS) Will it be ‘Bongo’ or ‘Bangla’ or ‘Bongodesh’? West Bengal is getting the blues over a proposed re-naming of the state as new Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee pushes for ‘poriborton’ or change in every area of functioning of this much neglected state.

State Commerce and Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee has said a change of name is essential as West Bengal, which begins with the letter ‘W’, figures last at inter-state discussions when it comes to the alphabetical order of things.

“Since the name of the state starts with W, our representatives get to speak only at the fag end of any function when most of the audience has left. To do away with the problem, the chief minister has suggested the name be changed,” Chatterjee said.

Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh has been asked to seek the views of political parties, assembly members and experts.

While the opposition Communists have supported the idea, the move has left Bengal’s famed intellectuals polarised.

“If the name of West Bengal is changed, then I will support it. The name should have been changed much before. There is no significance of the name ‘West Bengal’ when ‘East Bengal’ does not exist,” renowned Bengali poet Shankha Ghosh told IANS. East Bengal is a reference to the region that makes up present day Bangladesh that was once part of India.

The Sahitya Akademi award winning poet suggested ‘Bangla’ as an alternative name after Rabindranath Tagore’s song “Banglar mati, Banglar jal” (Soil of Bengal, Water of Bengal).

Eminent writer Atin Bandyopadhyay, however, disagrees.

“East Bengal and West Bengal came into existence after the bifurcation of Bengal. East Bengal became Bangladesh. The name West Bengal signifies that Bengal has been divided,” he added.

After the partition of India in 1947, Bengal was bifurcated into East and West Bengal. East Bengal became a part of Pakistan. It was re-christened East Pakistan in 1956 and later emerged as the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Bengali writer Samaresh Majumdar is game for a change. “It is difficult to find a new name. I think the government should take the views of common people of the state about the new name. The government could suggest two to four new names and the people then could cast their vote to select one,” he said.

“I think the name West Bengal is fine. Because if we change the name as ‘Bongodesh’, then it would be thought that we are imitating Bangladesh in changing the name,” veteran Tagore songs exponent Dwijen Mukherjee told IANS.

“The government should put its thinking cap on before arriving at a decision. A debate can take place in this regard,” he added.

The previous Left Front government had also wanted to change the name of the state, triggering a public debate both for and against the proposal. During the regime, the name of the state capital was changed from Calcutta to Kolkata.

Renowned Bengali writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhaya said the name change was long due.

“There is no meaning of the name ‘West Bengal’. We are facing an identity crisis with the name…it must be changed. If we do not change the name now, then when will it be changed?” he asked.

Mukhopadhaya, the Sahitya Akademi Award and Vidyasagar Award winning writer, suggested the name ‘Bongo’ for the state.

Magician P.C. Sorcar said there were many more important issues facing the state than choosing a new name.

“This is not a new topic and not a very important topic also. More important issues are left for the government to check, like skyrocketing prices, develop rural communication and rural electrification,” he said.

Sorcar, however, said he was supporting the reason for the move. “The new name should start with B.”

“To me it is a gimmick. If you are changing the name of the state from West Bengal to ‘Bongo’ or ‘Bangla’, you are denying history. The history of partition is associated with it,” political analyst Sabyasachi Basu Roychowdhury said.

Bengal Peerless managing director Kumar Sankar Bagchi is pro change.

“To be in the front row is good. But we should have the moral strength to occupy the front seat,” he added.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at mithun.d@ians.in)

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