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‘Symbol of slavery & indulgence’: Idea behind BJP’s renewed demand to rename Lucknow

BJP MP has written to PM Modi, UP CM demanding Lucknow be renamed "Lakshmanpur" or "Lakhanpur". On the demand, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav remarked, 'will you call a table a chair?'

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Lucknow: After the Uttar Pradesh government renamed “Faizabad” and “Allahabad” districts to “Ayodhya” and “Prayagraj”, respectively, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders are now demanding that state capital Lucknow be renamed as “Lakshmanpur” or “Lakhanpur”. This, in turn, has sparked identical demands to rename Ghazipur and Bahraich districts.

In the current context, BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta first raised the demand to rename Lucknow in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home minister Amit Shah and UP CM Yogi Adityanath. Reacting to it, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Harnath Singh Yadav said he would welcome such a move.

Deputy CMs Brajesh Pathak and Keshav Prasad Maurya, too, were quick in reacting to the demand but held back from giving a definitive timeline on the renaming exercise.

Speaking to reporters in Bhadohi, Pathak said on Wednesday the fact that Lucknow was referred to as “Lakshmanpuri” earlier is well-known. “Now, we are moving ahead as per the situation,” he added. Asked if the capital should be renamed, Pathak said he would divulge more “according to how the situation takes shape”.

Maurya, while reiterating that Lucknow was historically known as “Lakhanpur”, said a grand statue of Lakshman will be installed opposite the Chaudhary Charan Singh International airport in Lucknow.

The demand to rename is not new and has been raised by BJP leaders Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon in the past.

In May last year, a tweet by Adityanath had set off speculation that the UP government could be considering the move. Sheshavatar Bhagwan Laxman ki pawan nagri Lucknow mein aapka swagat aur abhinandan (welcome to the holy city of lord Laxman),” Yogi had said in a tweet welcoming PM Modi to Lucknow on May 16 2022.

There have been multiple attempts under the Yogi regime to project Lucknow as the city of Lakshman with two statues of him already coming up in different parts of the capital city.

Ask archaeology experts and they agree that Lucknow has undergone a name change more than once. According to D.P. Tewari, former professor of archaeology at the Lucknow University, the city was first called “Lakshmanpur”, then renamed “Lakhnavati” and subsequently “Lakhanpuri”, before its name was finally changed to “Lucknow”.

Also Read: Brouhaha over Kanpur V-C Pathak ensnares another V-C. AKTU’s PK Mishra relieved of duties

“‘Lucknow’ a symbol of slavery and indulgence’”

In his letter to the UP CM, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Pratapgarh BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta said that according to Hindu mythology, Ram gifted the region where Lucknow is located to his younger brother Lakshman in Treta Yug — second of the four world ages in Hinduism, referred to as such because three incarnations of the Hindu deity Vishnu are believed to have graced Earth during this period, namely Vaman, Parshuram and Ram.

“When the country has entered Amrit Kaal, it seems totally improper to regale the coming generation with stories of indulgence and uselessness of Nawabs and giving them a message of slavery. It was due to this lifestyle of indulgence and uselessness that Lord Dalhousie annexed the place (Lucknow) and incorporated it in British rule. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (last king of Awadh) had accepted British slavery,” Gupta wrote.

He added that the name “Lucknow”, which he termed a “symbol of slavery and indulgence”, be changed to “Lakhanpur” or “Lakshmanpur” which are symbols of “great cultural legacy, pride, prosperity and heroism”.

Speaking to ThePrint, Gupta asserted that he is not proposing a new name for Lucknow, which he said was known as “Lakshmanpuri” till the 18th century. He added, “When Mughals came, they renamed it ‘Lucknow’ and ‘city of Nawabs’. When we have entered Amrit Kaal, why carry on with the symbols of slavery of the Mughals and the British? When Mughals and Britishers have left, why should we move ahead with these symbols?”

Asked about historical evidence suggesting that the Mughal rulers never returned to their native lands, he said they were behind the destruction of Hindu temples including the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the old Vishweshwar temple in Kashi and since Allahabad and Faizabad were already renamed on the cultural context, there should be no resistance to changing the name of “Lucknow.”

Gupta also pointed out that in his parliamentary constituency, he got “Dandupur railway station” renamed after the “Maa Barahi Devi temple”.

“The name of Lucknow will certainly be changed,” he declared.

BJP MP Harnath Singh Yadav, meanwhile, told ABP News that “all symbols of foreign invaders and slavery in Bharat, whether in Lucknow or other cities, should be finished”. He, however, denied having information about any official proposal to rename Lucknow.

“Lakshmanpuri was the original name of the place we call Lucknow today. Foreign invaders tried to finish our identity and Lucknow is also in the list. So, there is nothing objectionable here,” he said.

Rajbhar jumps on wagon, Akhilesh lays into BJP

Within hours of the demand to rename Lucknow making headlines, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar proposed that a similar change is warranted for “Ghazipur” and “Bahraich.”

Rajbhar has written two letters to the UP CM, demanding that Ghazipur and Bahraich be renamed as “Vishwamitra Nagar” and “Maharaja Suheldev Rajbhar Nagar”, respectively.

The two districts have a sizable support base of the SBSP and the demand comes in the backdrop of UP BJP chief Bhupendra Chaudhary admitting that if Rajbhar — a former ally — agrees with the BJP’s ideology, Chaudhary believes the party is willing to give him a chance to work together.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav took the opportunity to poke fun at the UP government for demanding this name change.

“Will you call a table a chair? The utility of a table is that you keep belongings on it. Lucknow will remain the capital. BJP members are doing no work and only changing names. Samajwadis constructed the best stadium which was named Ekana stadium after Lord Vishnu, they changed it to Atal Bihari Vajpayee stadium. Should the BJP not do any big work in their (own leader’s) names,” he remarked. 

Yadav emphasised that children studying in UP’s primary schools don’t have any sweaters, shoes or food.

‘Nawabs donated land for temples in Ayodhya’

Explaining the underlying mythological context behind the demand to rename Lucknow, Tewari told ThePrint, “In the Uttar Kand of the Ramayana, there is a mention that when goddess Sita was exiled for the second time, lord Lakshman came to the place (where Lucknow is situated) and rested for some time at an ashram on the banks of Gomti river before she (Sita) was finally sent to Bithoor.”

He added that even before the BJP demanded that the capital be renamed “Lakshmanpuri”, “the name of the city was linked to a scheduled caste landlord called Lakhna Pasi”. 

Tewari also said BJP leader late Lalji Tandon had mentioned in his book ‘Ankaha Lucknow’ an instance from when Britishers captured Lucknow during the 1857 freedom struggle. “Drunk soldiers exclaimed in happiness ‘Luck-now’ to suggest that luck would favour them in establishing their hold over the country post that win,” he recalled, quoting the book.

However, Nadeem Rezavi, professor of mediaeval history at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) contended that the rule of the Nawaabs was the most secular rule.

He told ThePrint, “To them (politicians), an Asaf-ud Daulah (Nawab of Awadh), who continues to proudly name his capital city on  a character from Ramayana, is an anathema. Perhaps they cannot comprehend his secularism and his pride in such multiculturalism. 

“Incidentally, large tracts of land were donated by Nawabs of Awadh for construction of temples in Ayodhya. For example, temples on banks of Saryu and Hanuman Mandir near so-called Ram Janmabhoomi.”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Why Samajwadi Party has taken a U-turn in Ramcharitmanas row — ‘shudra’ politics could pay off


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