West Bengal Likely To Be Renamed 'Bengal' In English And 'Banga' In Bengali

02/08/2016 6:06 PM IST | Updated 02/08/2016 6:45 PM IST
Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters
Supporters hold a cut-out of chief minister Mamata Banerjee during a rally in Kolkata in 2011.

The West Bengal government Cabinet today passed a proposal to rename the state as 'Bengal' in English and 'Banga' or 'Bangla' in Bengali. The news was confirmed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, who said a special Assembly session will be convened on 26 August to discuss the change of name.

"For the sake of the people, culture and tradition, we have decided to change the name in Bengali as 'Bangla' or 'Bongo'. We will put forward the suggestion in the Legislative Assembly. The state's name in English would be 'Bengal'," Chatterjee said.

A proposal to change the name of the state has been brewing for several years, especially since the TMC-led government took over from the Left Front in 2011. Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of the state, began her rule by giving new names to existing roads and metro stations after icons of Bengali culture.

The idea of changing the name of the state, however, came from more pragmatic concerns. For long, ministers from West Bengal have complained of being called in last to official meetings at the Centre, since alphabetically, the order in which such meetings are scheduled, the name of their state comes at the very end among the list of states.

There was a brief attempt to change the English name of the state to Paschim Banga, which is how West Bengal is currently referred to in Bengali, in order to pull it up the alphabetical ladder. But it did not go down very well among the various parties concerned. 'Bangla' or 'Banga', in Bengali, is believed to be the better option, not only because it will pull the state up to the top of the alphabetical order but because it will also resonate well with the name of the state capital, which was changed from Calcutta to Kolkata during the Left Front rule in 2001.

The name 'West Bengal' is perceived as a relic of the colonial era. The British partitioned the undivided Bengal province into Hindu-majority West Bengal and Muslim-majority East Bengal. The latter was known as East Pakistan after Partition and then Bangladesh after the 1972 war. There is, therefore, no reason to retain the 'West' in 'West Bengal' anymore.

Babul Supriyo, a union minister with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was excited about the decision to change the name of the state but preferred either Bengal (after the Royal Bengal Tiger) or Bangla (after the language). He wasn't too keen on "Banga" as it could be confused with "Bongo" "an instrument people play," as he explained.

Written with agency reports.

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