Bengaluru: The Karnataka government has asked district officials to suggest names of local historical personalities for airports in different cities.
There are five airports in Karnataka apart from the one in Bengaluru — in Mysuru, Dharwad, Belagavi, Kalaburgi and Mangaluru. The Bengaluru airport is already named after the 15-century Kempegowda, who is believed to be the founder of the Karnataka capital.
The State Infrastructure Development Department (IDD) has written to the deputy commissioners (DCs) under whom the five airports fall, asking them to immediately provide information on influential historical personalities from their region. The letter has been accessed by ThePrint.
Approached for comment, IDD principal secretary Kapil Mohan claimed there was no proposal to rename airports outside Bengaluru pending in his department. He, however, did add that the note may have been sent by his office as part of an information-gathering exercise.
Sources in the government said a similar letter was issued in December 2019, and the fresh note, dated 7 January, was a reminder.
“On 22 November, the Kalaburgi Airport was inaugurated. Soon after, requests to rename the airport after local leaders or personalities started pouring in. This has happened in Belagavi too, where requests have been made to name it after Rani Chennamma or Sangolli Rayanna,” said a source in the government who did not want to be named.
Karnataka’s Culture and Tourism minister C.T. Ravi added that naming the airports will take time as suggestions will have to be cleared by the cabinet.
He, however, said naming local airports after those who have historically contributed to the state or helped build it will help popularise Karnataka’s history.
“If you name them after regional personalities, it is good, but this should not become another platform to fight over names,” Ravi told ThePrint over the phone.
Local cultural bodies back move
The move to name airports after historical personalities has been supported by others too.
Noted southern film-maker T.S. Nagabharana, who heads the Kannada Development Authority (KDA), which works towards the promotion of Kannada language and culture, said naming airports after historical personalities would help generate interest about the state’s culture and its history.
“What a wonderful opportunity this is to showcase our culture and those who have contributed to the state. If you name it after a person who is famous in that region, anybody who is flying in will be curious to know why the airport was named as such, who the person was, and what contribution he/she made to Karnataka,” Nagabharana said. “It would also show how proud we are of our culture and heritage. We will be writing to the concerned department with our suggestions for names for these airports.”
Controversy over Bengaluru airport name
In 2015, the name of the Bengaluru airport became the subject of controversy when the late Jnanpith awardee and thespian Girish Karnad suggested it be renamed after Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore.
Karnad had argued that major airports in the country were named after freedom fighters like Chhatrapati Shivaji (Mumbai) or Subhas Chandra Bose (Kolkata). Kempegowda, he said, was the founder of Bengaluru and not a freedom fighter. According to him, since the Bengaluru airport was located in Devanahalli, the birthplace of Tipu Sultan who fought against the British, his name would be apt for the premises.
However, this controversy drew the wrath of several pro-Kannada organisations as well as the Vokkaliga community, to which Kempegowda belongs.