Follow Us:

Language & Identity

Editorial |

Thursday’s forward movement in the West Bengal Assembly on renaming the state comes after considerable prevarication on correcting what was a historical certitude prior to Partition. This ought to have been accorded uppermost priority in the aftermath of Independence, and was definitely of far greater import than moving up the alphabetical ladder at inter-State conferences, pre-eminently at meetings of Niti Aayog and the National Development Council.

Truth to tell, the state’s role at these conferences was unwittingly reduced to presenting the vote of thanks. Traditionally, presentations have been made in alphabetical sequence. Which is the reason why Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam have been accorded priority in the matter of presentations; the last will still have its pride of place if it is renamed as Ahom.

The name, West Bengal, ceased to be relevant on 15 August 1947, when East Bengal, so-called, became East Pakistan, subsequently graduating to Bangladesh in December 1971. The fact of the matter must be that both historians and governments at the Centre and in the states had over the decades overlooked the evolution of history.

The change to Paschim Bango, as mooted in 2011, was no more than an English-to-Bengali translation, and was promptly turned down by the Centre. Now, the proposed renaming of the state to “Bangla” is in a sense a double sundae, one that takes care of both the language and the state’s identity. Subject to the approval of the Union home ministry, it shall formalise the new name of the state, just as Orissa has been renamed as Odisha.

In retrospect, it was disingenuous on the part of the state government to have furnished three names to the Centre ~ Bengal in English, Bangla in Bengali, and Bangal in Hindi ~ hoping that it would take its pick. It didn’t as the official choice theory or the linguistic preference is scarcely relevant in such matters.

Furthermore, in view of the possible confusion the file didn’t move in Delhi for the past two years. It ought to have been obvious in August 2016 that the Centre would not have accepted the names in three different languages, an index to the state government’s indecisiveness. The latest communication from Delhi has directed the state to choose one name instead of offering three options.

It is just as well, therefore, that the Chief Minister has avoided another bout of controversy when she urged the House to pass the resolution unanimously. And so it did on Thursday in a rare instance of floor coordination on the part of parties as opposed as the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Thus far, the BJP is a legislative non-entity. A new name shall appear on the map very shortly.