‘What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ One is reminded of the oft-quoted phrase from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in the fresh controversy of naming spree by certain groups not only in the state but across the country.
The most recent controversy is the attempt to change the name ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ by the ruling BJP, in spite of the fact that the phrase ‘India, that is Bharat’ is already included in the Indian Constitution. The attempt was especially made after several opposition parties including the Congress came together to form an alliance named ‘INDIA’ the full form of which is Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) with a mission to take on BJP in the 2024. This somewhat annoyed the Supreme Leader of BJP and the name ‘India’ was replaced by ‘Bharat’ in the invitation cards for the G-20 dignitaries.
There are several theories about how this country came to be called ‘India’ and how the phrase ‘India that is Bharat’ is included in the constitution. Every name has significance and roots in history which should not be taken lightly. But, there are instances of name changes in India, more importantly the names of three metropolitan cities Calcutta, Bombay and Madras had been changed to Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai respectively by enacting laws. However, these three are the oldest high courts in the country and still retain the old names.
Coming nearer to home, Manipur had different names in the past like Tilli Koktong, Meitei Leipak or Meitrabak and Poirei etc. The Manipuris more particularly the Meiteis are called different names by other people like ‘Kathe’ by the Burmese Cassay by the Shans and Meckley by Tripuris. What one calls oneself and called by others is equally important.
The name ‘Manipur’ had been challenged by different groups including revivalists, as the word itself is not of Meitei language but of Sanskrit origins. It came to be known as Manipur in the eighteen century after the advent of Hindu Vaisnavism. Yet, large sections of the people had come to accept the name as it is inclusive of all other communities besides the Meiteis.
One must also remember that ‘Manipur’ is the official name of the state unless it is changed by an Act. But, pinning down a name acceptable to all would be a difficult task. The other day, the Manipur government issued an order, imposing a prohibition against any deliberate act of renaming districts, subdivisions, places, institutions and addresses of such institutions without the approval of the state government.
The order raised serious concerns on the incidents of many CSOs, institutions, establishments and persons deliberately renaming or trying to rename districts, sub-divisions, places, institutions and address of such institutions. These acts are objectionable, or likely to create controversy and conflict between communities residing in the state more particularly in the context of the ongoing law and order crisis as an aftermath of the Tribal Solidarity March organised by All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) since May 3, it stated. This was after the controversy generated by the change of the name ‘Churachandpur’ with ‘Lamka’ as postal address which led to confusion.
One must understand that the official name of a place cannot be changed at one’s whims more particularly in official correspondences and functions. And it is not only in Churachandpur, but in other districts individuals and groups have tried to change the names of places.
In the recent case, some started using ‘Lamka’ in postal addresses and trouble began with residents complaining that their parcels and letters were being held up. Then, Churachandpur based CSOs had to issue an advisory to use the official name ‘Churachandpur’ only.