The CM’s priorities seem to revolve around renaming Muslim sounding places. Given there is no dearth of them in UP, it could keep him busy till 2019.
New Delhi: With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections around the corner, Yogi Adityanath is a man on a mission — a nomenclature traversing one.
The UP chief minister’s governance priorities, it appears, nowadays revolve around renaming towns and districts in Uttar Pradesh that have ‘Muslim-sounding’ names.
Less than a month after Allahabad was re-christened as Prayagraj on the approval of his cabinet, Adityanath renamed Faizabad district as Ayodhya district Tuesday. The efforts, the chief minister said, was him merely ‘restoring’ history as it ought to have been — bereft of Muslim rulers.
And for critics wondering why even bother, the chief minister had quite the rationale. “Some said what is there in the name,” he said while defending his Prayagraj re-labelling. “So, I said why didn’t their parents name them ‘Raavan’ and ‘Duryodhana’ in that case? In this country, the name holds a lot of significance.”
Given the speed with which the UP chief minister is rewriting history by changing the names of ‘Muslim-sounding cities’ in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, and with no dearth of such places in the state, Adityanath may be left with little else to do before 2019.
Here is a map of all the places he will have to cover:
- Ghaziabad: Formerly Ghaziuddinnagar, the city was established in 1740 and named after its founder Wazir Ghazi-ud-din. In 1864, with the advent of the railways, the name was shortened to Ghaziabad for administrative purposes. It is also occasionally called the ‘Gateway of UP’ because of its proximity to the national capital. A grouping of industrial, residential and commercial projects within the district of Ghaziabad is also named Sahibabad.
- Muzaffarnagar: A name that has become indelible in modern-day consciousness due to the 2013 riots, Muzaffarnagar was gifted by Emperor Shah Jahan to one of his chieftains, Saiyed Muzaffar Khan as a jagir (a feudal land grant). In 1633, along with the adjoining areas of Khera and Surju, Khan founded un-divided Muzaffarnagar. His son Munawar Lashkar Khan later named the city after his father Muzaffar.
- Ghazipur: The district’s official website describes the district of Ghazipur as being “famous for its glorious history in the Mughal period”. Although the exact etymology of the name is not mentioned, the UP government cites historians who place Ghazipur as being named after Saiyyad Masood Ghazi, a Muslim saint.
- Aligarh: The region in western UP has changed names depending on who ruled it at the given time. Once called Kol, the region became ‘Muhammadgarh’ in 1524–25, when Mohammad, the son of the governor during Ibrahim Lodhi’s reign, renamed the city after himself. A future governor, Sabit Khan, named the city Sabitgarh, and later a Jat occupier named Surajmal called it Ramgarh. Aligarh got its present name when Najaf Khan, a Shia commander, captured it.
- Firozabad: Originally called Chandwar Nager, Firozabad was named during Akbar’s regime by Firoz Shah Mansab Dar in 1566. The district’s official website cites oral folklore to tell the city’s story: “They say that Raja Todarmal was passing through this town on his pilgrimage to Gaya, (when) he was looted by robbers. At his request, Akbar the great sent his Mansab Dar Firoz Shah here.”
- Shahjahanpur: The city lies roughly 72 km southeast of Bareilly and 160 km northwest of Lucknow. As the title suggests, it was founded and named after the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1647.
- Sultanpur: Folklore has it that the city was founded by Kush, Ram’s son, and was called Kusapura or Kusabhavanpur after him. Before the area was annexed by the British during the 1857 revolt, a military station and cantonment area was established on the river’s right bank in Girghit village. This was commonly referred to as Sultanpur by officers.
- Akbarpur: The district headquarters of Ambedkar Nagar, Akbarpur was formed as a consequence of then UP BSP CM Mayawati’s decision to section off a part of Faizabad to create Ambedkar Nagar on 29 September 1995. According to the Ramayana, King Dashratha also shot Shravan Kumar here.
- Moradabad: The city was established in 1600 by Murad, the son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, from where it derives its name Moradabad.
- Mirzapur: One might be surprised to learn that Mirzapur wasn’t named by a Muslim king at all but by the British East India Company in 1735, which first called it Mirzapore. The name traces its etymology through a series of derivations from the Persian word ‘Amīrzāde, meaning “child of the ruler.”
- Azamgarh: One of the easternmost districts of UP, Azamgarh’s name owes its existence to a conscious conversion to Islam. Named after the town that is its headquarters, Azamgarh was founded by the son of Gautam Rajput Vikramjit in 1665. The official district website says that the son, named Azam, “like some of his predecessors, had embraced the faith of Islam”.
- Shikohabad: It was formerly called ‘Mohammad Mah’, a marker that still exists near the villages of Tahsil and Kotwali. The township was eventually named after Dara Shikoh, the eldest brother of Emperor Aurangzeb. Today, however, the town scarcely carries a trace of the Mughal era.
- Fatehpur Sikri: The current World UNESCO Heritage site was “built during the second half of the 16th century by Emperor Akbar”. At first, Akbar called the city Fatehabad but later changed it to a more royal ‘Fatehpur Sikri’ (The City of Victory) after his conquest of Gujarat in 1573. The city is home to one of India’s biggest mosques — the Jama Masjid.
- Farrukhabad: The region was founded by Nawab Mohammad Khan Bangash in 1714, who then named it in honour of the then reigning ruler Farrukhsiyar. The township consists of the twin-cities of Farrukhabad and Fatehgarh, which are approximately five kilometres apart.
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