Srinagar: Kashmir’s water supply department will not be called the Jal Shakti department. The Chenani-Nashri Tunnel has been named after Hindutva ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee. The Shere-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium will also get a new name: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium.
Numerous other such proposals are in the offing, according to news reports.
These developments, after the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two union territories, has led to fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party has finally brought its name-changing spree to Kashmir.
The nine-km-long tunnel was renamed on October 24 – almost two months after J&K was stripped of its special status.
The tunnel connecting Kashmir with the rest of India is the country’s longest highway tunnel and Asia’s longest bi-directional highway tunnel. It is located in the lower Himalayan mountain range, between Udhampur and Ramban districts in Jammu.
Mookerjee was the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He was a known critic of the Congress and a vehement opponent of Article 370. BJP leaders would often quote his slogan – “Ekdeshmein do vidhan, do pradhanaur do nishannahichalenge (There cannot be two constitutions, two prime ministers and two flags in one nation) – to oppose J&K’s special status. When the Centre read down Article 370, several BJP leaders said the party has finally realized Mookerjee’s unfulfilled dream.
According to a report published in The Wire earlier this month, state authorities have cleared decks to rechristen Sher-i-Kashmir Cricket Stadium, located in heart of Srinagar, as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium. A number of facilities in Kashmir including two hospitals, the cricket stadium, an indoor stadium, a park and a convocation centre are named after National Conference founder Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who was known among his supporters as Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir).
Abdullah is one of the most prominent politicians in J&K’s history. In 1946, he raised voice against Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh and led the ‘Quit Kashmir’ agitation against him.
He was jailed for three years. In 1953, Abdullah, the second prime minister of J&K, was accused of conspiring against the state and was arrested in the “Kashmir conspiracy case”. This time, he was jailed for 11 years. He returned as chief minister of J&K in 1975, after the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh accord. A local news agency reported last week that the state administration is planning to rename all facilities and landmarks named after Sheikh Abdullah.
The rest of India is no stranger to the BJP’s obsession with changing the names of roads, buildings and cities to support its agenda. Now, Srinagar-based historian Ashiq Hussain said, this politically motivated campaign has made its way to Kashmir. “The purpose is to polarise and give a sense of victory to the majority population across India.”
A senior official told The Wire that on the directions of the Centre, the J&K administration has cleared a proposal to rename the Kashmir Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department as the Jal Shakti Department. This will be the first department in Kashmir to have a Hindi name. The official said this proposal was moved some months ago. The name change is happening at a time when the government is yet to take a call on whether Urdu, which was the official language of the state of J&K, will remain the official language of the union territory of J&K.
Section 47 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, under which J&K was bifurcated, empowers the new legislative assembly to adopt “any one or more of the languages in use in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir or Hindi as the official language or languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes”. As of now, names of all government departments in J&K are written in English or Urdu. At the civil secretariat, the names of officials and their designations are written in both English and Urdu on the nameplates on their office doors.
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