The Conspiracy Theories Floating Around On Why West Bengal Will Be Renamed

What's in a name? A lot.

03/08/2016 11:34 AM IST | Updated 03/08/2016 4:20 PM IST
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Massive crowd eagerly listening to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Bengalis are prolific at naming people and places - ask any Bengali who has a one name per acquaintance. Bengalis are even better at conspiracy theories.

So when the idea that West Bengal may be renamed started taking a concrete shape, many Bengalis were not surprised. After all, if they can have a bhalo naam (the name that goes in official documents and is used by teachers) and half a dozen daak naam (nicknames), why should the state be denied of the same privileges?

On Tuesday, the West Bengal Cabinet decided to rename the state. If you are speaking in English, you will now call it Bengal. But, there's a confusion on what to call in Bengali. The options are Bangla and Bongo.

Both the Bengali names are problematic for people who speak in Bengali.

"Banga (pronounced Bongo) is an instrument people play and we shouldn't have this name," Union minister Babul Supriyo of the BJP enthused.

The alternative - Bangla - is a colloquial term for liquor produced locally and is known to be potent and repulsive in equal measure. No Bengali will feel particularly proud of having his/her state named after a liquor that's likely to give an upset stomach, and more upset parents and partners.

So, why have we decided to change West Bengal's name suddenly? There are several theories floating on the Internet on it. Here are some of the interesting ones:

Let's Get Rid Off The Colonial Past

For several years now, authors and intellectuals of Bengal have opined that the name West Bengal reeks of colonial hangover.

Getty Images
India, West Bengal, Kolkata, the Victoria Memorial with Hindustan Motors Ambassador taxi.

West Bengal got its name when Lord Curzon divided the erstwhile province of Bengal to East Bengal and West Bengal in 1905. The region was reunified and partitioned again during Indian independence. East Bengal was to be a part of Pakistan and was called East Pakistan. East Pakistan later became independent Bangladesh after the 1971 war. West Bengal continued to be called by the same name.

When Calcutta was named Kolkata, an elated Sunil Gangopadhyay had hoped that the state would be renamed "Paschim Bongo" and had suggested that at least a third of the signboards in the city be rewritten in Bengali.

This, he had said, would "fuel" Bengali pride, make people feel that the city belonged to Bengalis and do away with the colonial hangover.

The previous Left government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had cleared the renaming of the state to "Paschimbongo". However, it was never cleared by the Parliament.

It's In The East

If you have come across Bengalis who have a lousy sense of direction, blame it on the name of the state. For a major part of their growing up years, they lived under the immense east-west confusion. And if they mistakenly named Eastern Ghats as Western Ghats during map-pointing exams, you know where they were coming from.

If nothing else, this renaming move will make life easy for those students who aren't the brightest sparks when it comes to Geography exams. And that Bengalis like acing all exams is an established fact.

In one of the earlier attempts at name change, late writer Sunil Gangopadhyay has rightly said, "If there is no East Bengal, how can there be a West Bengal?"

Quora, a community question-and-answer site, has about 50 threads with the same question--Why is West Bengal called West Bengal? Clearly, no one gets why a state in the eastern part of the country is called 'West' anything.

It's Football, Stupid

Bangals - the clan of Bengalis who trace their roots to Bangladesh, worship the football club called East Bengal. Bengalis who originally hail from the western part of undivided Bengal, follow Mohun Bagan. So a football club, whose fans represent west of Bengal, is not called West Bengal. This video, questions, what's indeed the point of the name is a football club doesn't find it cool enough to use it?

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Mohun Bagan club supporters celebrating a win.

Makes more sense to get rid of the geographically incorrect name.

Mamata Wanted To Speak More

If reports are to believed, this is probably the most important reason that made the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee call for a cabinet meeting and decide to take an immediate step on renaming the state.

Didi was apparently fed up of having to speak last, or often not at all, at meetings. And if you know Didi, that doesn't sit well in her scheme of things - speaking less, speaking last.

The move, reportedly comes after the Chief Minister's chance to speak at the Inter-State Council meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi earlier this month, came at the very end.

Recently, in the Inter-State Council meeting, which began early in the morning and lasted till almost 7pm, Mamata was the last speaker.

While other chief ministers got the opportunity to speak for considerable periods of time, Mamata reportedly got about 10 minutes and was highly dissatisfied with the meeting.

"The chief minister had wanted to communicate a number of issues to the Prime Minister. But this wasn't the case. By the time, she got to speak every one was tired and no one was interested. By virtue of being the last state alphabetically, we have been continually discriminated against," a state government official had told Indian Express.

This move is possibly a way to shoot the state higher up in ranking in alphabetical order.

We are not sure which one is the reason that made the West Bengal cabinet rename the state, but sounds like we have to start practicing to call it Bengal/Bongo/Bangla now.

Once the name is ratified in a special meeting of the assembly it would be sent to the Centre for an approval by the houses of parliament.

"There will be a meeting at the Assembly for adopting a resolution and then it would be sent to the Centre," education minister Partha Chatterjee said.

It is likely to be discussed in a special session on August 29 and 30. Ahead of that it would be discussed in an all-party meeting in the presence of the Assembly speaker.

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