The state government of West Bengal wishes to change its name officially to Bengal. It also passed a proposal to the effect on 2nd August 2016. According to Partha Chatterjee, the state education minister, the state will be called Banga or Bangla in Bengali, the native language of this eastern Indian state. He has also stated that in English the state will be called Bengal. As far as history goes, West Bengal was part of the Bengal province that was divided in 1947 – during Partition – with West Bengal staying in India and East Bengal going on to form what was then known as East Pakistan. This region is known today internationally as Bangladesh ever since its independence from Pakistan following a bloody civil war in 1971.
It is expected that the assembly of West Bengal will soon organize a special session on 26th August in order for the proposal to be passed. Once it is passed, the parliament will have no choice but to provide its seal of approval and that will mean that West Bengal will formally be identified as Bengal.
Move up the alphabetical order
Some members of the state administration are of the opinion that when the state is renamed it will head up the alphabetical order. Right now the state is at the bottom of the pile, but as soon as the word west is deleted from its name it can go up to as high as fourth on the list.
The real reason, one feels, stems from an incident surrounding Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal – affectionately known as ‘didi‘ or elder sister among her followers. This one occurred on 16th July when she took part at a meeting of the Inter State Council in New Delhi. Since the state is at the last spot alphabetically, she had to wait her turn for 6 hours.
According to her, when she spoke she noticed that not many people were willing to listen to her and that is something that clearly irked her. She also made her displeasure known to her close associates. Even though on the face of it this annoyance seems to be the immediate trigger, Banerjee had mulled over the idea in 2011 as well, when she had become chief minister for the first time.
Debate surrounding the decision
As has been evident everywhere – except in the ballot box – regarding every decision taken in the last few years of Banerjee’s reign as chief minister, there has been some heated debate about the justification of this accordance as well. People have either supported it wholeheartedly or they have been absolutely derisive. Sirshendu Mukherjee, a noted author, and Soumitra Chatterjee, a cultural icon in Bengal because of his stature and accomplishments as an actor, have stated that the very name West Bengal was irrelevant considering the fact that East Bengal was no longer in existence now. The counterargument states that if the name is done away with, it will also signal the end of history associated with Partition, an event that brought untold misery and pain to so many people in the country.
Rajat Kanta Roy, erstwhile vice chancellor, Visva Bharati University, and a noted historian, has said that there was no reason as to why the state could be renamed. Sugata Bose, an MP of Trinamool Congress, and a historian associated with the prestigious Harvard University, has come out in support of the decision. He has praised from a historical point of view, as well as keeping an eye on the future. Nabaneeta Dev Sen, a noted author, has however stated that if the province is renamed Bangla there is a good chance that people can confuse it with Bangladesh.