The “West” in West Bengal is likely to disappear with the Mamata Banerjee government adopting a proposal to rename the state as “Bengal”, a move that evoked mixed reactions from both eminent persons and commoners.
Announcing the state cabinet decision adopting the proposal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said a special session of the assembly will be convened from August 26 to discuss and pass a resolution to give effect to the new name.
“For the sake of the people of the state, it’s heritage and culture as well as to promote and protect its interests at the national level, we have proposed to rename West Bengal as Bengal in English and ‘Banga’ or Bangla in Bengali,” Chatterjee told the media.
In Bengali, the state is currently referred to as “Paschim Banga” or “Paschim Bangla”.
“The assembly session begins on August 26. We will put forth the proposal of renaming the state for discussions. On August 29 and 30, we will discuss the issue and urge all to accept the new name,” added Chatterjee.
The renaming exercise, which the Mamata Banerjee government had undertaken in 2011 as well, attracted mixed reactions from authors, singers and politicians, with some giving it the thumbs up while others frowned at the move.
For Sahitya Akademi award winning author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, the move isn’t rechristening, rather reinstating the state’s original name.
“The name West Bengal is meaningless. The state was originally known as Bangabhoomi in an earlier age. After Partition, the name of the state was changed. Many of us did not like it. I would not call it rechristening, rather going back to the original nomenclature,” said Mukhopadhyay.
After the partition of India in 1947, Bengal was bifurcated as East Bengal and West Bengal. East Bengal became a part of Pakistan. It was rechristened East Pakistan in 1956 and later emerged as the independent nation of Bangladesh after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
Author Samaresh Majumdar too echoed a similar view.
“We don’t have any state or country called East Bengal. So the name West Bengal is also irrelevant,” said Majumdar.
“Banga” is a strict no-no for Bollywood singer turned Union Minister Babul Supriyo.
“Bengal in English is fantastic and makes a great pair with Bangla the State and its language Bangla Bhasha – but not Bongo pleaseeeeee!
“Bongo is an instrument that is played. I do not want people to crack dirty puns about it,” said the BJP Lok Sabha member from the state.
BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh criticised the move.
“What purpose will it serve, only they know. They are trying to wipe out the painful history of Partition,” said Ghosh.
Educationist Pabitra Sarkar pointed out to the alphabetical advantage the new name carries.
“During discussions at the national level, representatives of our state will get a chance to speak earlier. As the present name starts with W, our representatives get to speak last now,” said Sarkar for whom changes in the name of cities or states is a natural process.
Bengali novelist Tilottama Majumdar wants the name “West Bengal” to continue as a reminder of the state’s partition in 1947.
“I cannot accept the new name as Paschim Bangla or West Bengal has now entered deep into our consciousness. The name West Bengal, Paschim Banga reminds us of the historic partition,” said Majumdar questioning the logic of the move.
Singer Anidnya Chattopadhay called for a referendum to gauge the opinion of the people.
In 2011, after the Banerjee led Trinamool Congress came to power, a consensus to rename the state as Paschim Banga was reached, with the opposition CPI-M-led Left Front too supporting the move.
Incidentally, the Left regime led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, which in 2001 renamed the capital Calcutta as Kolkata, had made a similar proposal.
Many took to social network to ridicule the move.
“Didi plans to name West Bengal as Bengal to come higher in the alphabetical ladder! What about naming it ‘Amrika’ to get extra ‘high’ and some veto!,” tweeted “Comrade Shahid”.
“West or not, its utter waste,” tweeted another.