Bhopal or Bhojpal: Just for the namesake?

The trend of changing names of important cities has nothing to do with governance.

Sushmita Dutta

Bhopal is known as the ‘city of lakes’, but in summers, people here have no qualms in spilling each others’ blood for a drop of water, to quench their thirst. Despite agriculture being considered as the mainstay of Madhya Pradesh, even in this day and age, farmers are at the mercy of rain gods for water required to irrigate their fields. What an irony!

Around 1,000 AD, the Parmar King, Raja Bhoj had established the state of Bhojpal (Madhya Pradesh was formed after India got independence and Bhopal was made its capital). The name ‘Bhoj’ was taken from the king’s name and ‘pal’ signified the number of dams built around the city in that period.

After India achieved independence from the British in 1947, the power to rule and bring change came in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. In 1995, the name of the country’s financial capital, Bombay, was changed to Mumbai. A trend slowly set in to change names of important cities. Calcutta became Kolkata, Madras was renamed as Chennai and the Silicon city of Bangalore is now known as Bengaluru. The latest to follow the trend is the capital city of Madhya Pradesh – considered as the heart of India – Bhopal, is now proposed to be called to Bhojpal. But, is it really required to change the name of the city when the state has other pressing problems to tackle?
Who is Raja Bhoj?

Raja Bhoj was a legendary ruler from 1010 AD –1053 AD. Raja Bhoj is remembered in the annals of our history as one of the greatest Indian kings. He is remembered for protecting and institutionalising culture, and worked towards the development of education. It is said that he was also instrumental in driving out Mahmud of Ghazni from India as a revenge for his demolition of the Somnath temple.

Raja Bhoj was a brave general and an able administrator who took Bhopal to great glory. He built great cities like Dhar, Bhopal (then called Bhojpal) and Mandu. The Shivalingam at the Bhojeshwar temple is an amazing example of his architectural brilliance. Its sheer 22-feet height is mind boggling and is made from a single block of polished black stone. But in the 17th century an Afghan sardar, Dost Mohammed Khan, seized the disintegrated state and established the princely province of Bhopal; and acquired the title of ‘Nawab’.

Proposal to rename Bhopal

A total of 8,360 farmers have killed themselves since 2005 across India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). And Madhya Pradesh figures among the top five states in this list.
Ignoring many such significant issues the Chief Minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, out of the blue came with a very strange proposal to rename the capital city - from ‘Bhopal’ to ‘Bhojpal’. According to media reports, in the month of February 2011, at a function organised to commemorate the millennium-celebration of coronation of the king Bhoj, Chauhan said that the proposal to rename Bhopal as Bhojpal would be sent to the Centre soon.

But those living in Bhopal are averse to the idea and have shown outright abhorrence to the proposal. Following a Facebook campaign by a 22-year-old engineering student, Faizan Khan, a huge “Peace March” was taken out by the locals to protest against the government’s idea. Many prominent luminaries of the city also came forward to support this movement. Most of them feel that it is an absolutely unnecessary move and only a way to divert people’s attention from the real issues that are haunting them daily.

Opposition stance

Congress, BJP’s main rival, is also against changing the name to Bhojpal. Congress general secretary and former chief minister Digvijay Singh said, “The money that the state government is spending on renaming the state capital could well be spent on various development works." He added that “when Madhya Pradesh was facing a large number of problems the BJP government in the state was trying to divert the attention of the people by raising non-serious issues".

Senior Congress MLA Ajay Singh said, “By floating the proposal to change the name of Bhopal, the state government had once again demonstrated that it was not interested in solving the problems of the people, but only believed in cheap gimmicks.”
Pressing problems, Mr CM

The proposal of renaming the state capital has been around since the BJP took power in Madhya Pradesh. In 2006, then chief minister Uma Bharti had tried to rename Bhopal. Now, Chouhan is championing the cause!

According to a private TV news channel, for the first time in MP in December 2010, a whopping 60% of the Kharif crop failed due to vagaries of nature. Prolonged power cuts and fertiliser shortage have only added to the farmers` woes. Aren’t these bigger problems at hand than renaming Bhopal?

Congress MLAs had staged a demonstration outside the state Assembly in Bhopal city last year to protest against acute water shortage. The protestors carried empty pots and buckets as a symbol of their mass protest. MLA Govind Rajput said, “Everyone is crying over the problem of water and electricity. People sleep outside their homes. Just to fetch some water people have to walk five kilometers. Water from the tankers is being sold for Rs 300 to 500 in the municipal office. Previously, we used to get water for free, but now we are getting water in exchange of money and it’s the case all over Madhya Pradesh.” Isn’t this an important matter to look into than renaming Bhopal?

In February this year, Bhopal gas tragedy victims in huge numbers held a demonstration in Delhi demanding adequate compensation, rehabilitation, medical care and punishment to the guilty. The ‘dharna’ was organised by Bhopal Gas Pidit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti (BGPSSS). The Samiti claimed that over five lakh genuine victims had been deprived of compensation on the basis of fraudulent medical categorisation of victims. Isn’t this a bigger problem than renaming Bhopal?

"Please Mr Chauhan, our city has a very beautiful name and so many people identify themselves as ‘Bhopalis’. Please do not take that away from us," requests Vatsal, a local resident of Bhopal.
‘What’s in a name?’

In India, once ruled an emperor called Muhammed-bin Tughlaq. He decided to shift his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. In the entire process, he also made the population of Delhi move to Daulatabad. The emperor’s plan backfired after more problems were encountered in the new city. So, he shifted back the entire population to Delhi, resulting in a huge and unnecessary loss to the exchequer and causing inconvenience to the people. He undertook several such foolhardy experiments which gave the emperor the title of the most ‘eccentric ruler’ in the annals of Indian history.

The attempt to change the name of Bhopal to Bhojpal by the Chief Minister appears to be similar move, something that is unnecessary and uncalled for.

Is this a vain attempt by CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan to make a name for himself in the history books along with Raja Bhoj? Though it’s a good attempt, but if he fails to sort out the problems of the people he just might stand next to the Emperor known for his eccentricities.

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