New Delhi: Famous Indian poet Akbar Allahabadi is now Akbar Prayagraj, according to the Uttar Pradesh Higher Education Services Commission (UPHESC), an autonomous body under the state government.
The Allahabad district was renamed Prayagraj in 2018 by the Yogi Adityanath government.
The Prayagraj-based UPHESC on its official website has updated the name of the Urdu poet Syed Akbar Hussain, popularly known as Akbar Allahabadi, to Akbar Prayagraj, drawing criticism on social media.
The name change has been made in the “About Allahabad” section.
Referring to poets and writers who are from the city, the website says, “Besides Hindi literature, Persian and Urdu literature are also studied in the city. Akbar Prayagraj is a noted modern Urdu poet…”
And Akbar Allahabadi is not the only one to have had his pen name, or the name they are popularly identified with, changed. All such writers or poets who used “Allahabadi” as a suffix to their names have been renamed “Prayagraj” on the UPHESC website. These include Rashid Allahabadi and Tegh Allahabadi, who have been named after Akbar Allahabadi in the list of Urdu poets from the city — they are now listed as “Tegh Prayagraj” and “Rashid Prayagraj”.
ThePrint reached UP Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Dinesh Sharma for comment over the phone Tuesday, but he said that he was not aware of the changes and that UPHESC was an autonomous body. “I will have to check with the officials at UPHESC about the name change, it’s an autonomous body,” he said.
‘Trying to rewrite history’
The name change caused a stir on social media Tuesday with people criticising the UP government. One user termed it “heights of stupidity” and another said it was an effort at “rewriting history”
I feel like laughing and crying at the same time. Heights of stupidity 🤦
— Ankita (@AnkitaSharma_26) December 28, 2021
its more diabolical than that. they're trying to rewrite history.
— dhanak دھنک 🌈 (@Oru_Mazhavill) December 28, 2021
पूछा 'अकबर' है आदमी कैसा
हँस के बोले वो आदमी ही नहीं https://t.co/Ff6OYPS3fo
— out of context (@Yatish001) December 28, 2021
Historians approached by ThePrint also criticised the UP government for the move.
Heramb Chaturvedi, a professor at Allahabad University, said this was an act of “disruption and shows pettiness…”. He added: “Fools should be forgiven”.
The professor also said changing pen names of famous poets shows that “authorities have a skewed understanding of history”.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who is also a professor of history at Allahabad University, tried to play it down by suggesting that “it can be a manual error because one cannot change a person’s pen name like that”.
About Akbar Allahabadi
Akbar Allahabadi is the most popular of the three poets whose names have been changed, and continues to have a following among modern poets and lyricists. Among his most well-known works is the ghazal “Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa”, which has often found its way into protest slogans across the country.
Verses from his poetry also found their way into the famous qawwali “Tum ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
He has written many couplets and poems that talk about peace and harmony between Hindus and Muslims and is very popular among contemporary Urdu, Hindi poets and lyricists. Critically acclaimed Hindi film Masaan’s songs also include poetry written by Akbar Allahabadi.
Of the other two, Rashid Allahabadi has been a winner of the UP Urdu Academy award for his collection of poetry “Mutthi mein Aftab”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)