The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved a proposal to officially rename the historic city of Allahabad as 'Prayagraj', a move that drew sharp criticism from the opposition.
Calling it an effort towards restoring an old name for the city, a state BJP spokesperson said the party has rectified the mistake made by Akbar.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath slammed opposition for criticising the step taken "keeping in view the feelings and emotions of people" and said they are not aware of their history, culture and traditions.
“Keeping in view the feelings and emotions of the people, Allahabad has been renamed Prayagraj by our government. Five hundred years ago the name of the place was Prayagraj as it is at the `Triveni Sangam’ (a confluence of three rivers)," Adityanath said in Gorakhpur.
"Those who are opposing this are not aware of their history, culture and traditions and we can't have hopes from them,” he told reporters during a visit to the Budhiya Mata temple in Gorakhpur.
“There are many Prayags on the bank of the sacred rivers coming from the Himalayas but this place is Prayagraj (the leading one among them)," the chief minister said.
The proposal will now go to the Centre before the city is officially renamed even though an Uttar Pradesh minister seemed to suggest the change has already come into effect.
"I am happy to say Allahabad will now be known as Prayagraj," senior UP minister Siddhartha Nath Singh told reporters after the Cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister.
"The government has announced this decision. It has come into effect from today,” Singh said.
But he added, “There is a process to carry out changes and the departments concerned will undertake it." The state government will write to the Centre, he said.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav has earlier criticised the move.
The Congress has also opposed it, saying the name change ignored the history of Allahabad, which played a significant role during the Independence struggle.
Congress spokesperson Onkar Singh said the region where Kumbh Mela is held is already called Prayagraj.
The state government can make that a separate city but Allahabad’s name should not be changed, he added.
However, minister Siddhartha Nath Singh said the move will help highlight Indian culture at the international level.
"Rig Veda, Mahabharata and Ramayana also mention Prayagraj,” he said. He said Adityanath had recalled a proposal to rename Allahabad ahead of the 2019 Kumbh Mela when he visited the city on Saturday and chaired a meeting on the event.
The seers there had given their unanimous approval when Adityanath brought this up, the minister said.
On objections to the proposal, Singh said, “Prayagraj is a name which was there for a long time. But almost 500 years ago, someone changed the name. You have been given a name by your parents. Imagine if that name is changed how will you feel?"
UP Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Manish Shukla said, "The mentality with which Mughal emperor Akbar changed the name of the city is being opposed by the people."
“Today, the BJP government has rectified the mistake made by Akbar," he added.