The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, stirred a meaningless debate when he, in a statement to media on Dussehra, indicated changing name of the state capital Shimla to Shyamla. He had told media that suggestions are being made regarding the same. The statement came right after the Uttar Pradesh Government changed Allahabad to Prayagraj.
However, the government faced a backlash from everyone except some cabinet ministers and hardcore right-wing groups and their supporters. The government was trolled on social media with memes and citizens even floated online petitions to save the heritage value associated with the name ‘Shimla’.
This backlash hit the government so hard that the Chief Minister on Tuesday stepped back and officially confirmed that the name of Shimla would not be changed.
It all began with a memorandum of the Himachal Pradesh’s Vishwa Hindu Parishad unit submitted to the Chief Minister on October 21, 2018. The VHP had urged the Chief Minister to consider making this change as the name reminds of British slavery. The VHP argued that everything that works as a reminder of British rule should be renamed. It further suggested that once the place was called Shyamala after a local goddess.
Cabinet Minister Vipin Singh Parmar was the first to endorse the idea publically through a media statement.
The most common response among the people was that how would renaming help the district or the State.
The capital is in poor shape and its beauty continues to degrade due to poor governance. Encroachments and illegal and haphazard construction are some examples of it. Instead of reviving it, it would make no sense to waste time on conceiving such worthless ideas,
said Amit Prashar, a local who was born and brought up in Shimla.
The Chief Minister should watch videos shared by the people on social media showing poor state of rainwater drainage, garbage management or the current condition of the National Highway -5. These should be the priorities of the government, not renaming Shimla,
said another local Kuldeep Jasta.
At the same time, the opposition Indian National Congress and political rivals like the Communist Party of India have termed it a political gimmick.
Is Shimla an English word? Is there any historical evidence of the fact that it was called Shyamala before British reached here,
asks Virbhadra Singh – former Chief Minister and veteran INC leader.
The Chief Minister should focus on changing the state of affairs instead changing the name of Shimla,
said Congress Chief Sukwinder Sukku.
The government is trying to divert the attention of the public from its failures during the 10 months of its rule, he said adding that there are other crucial problems that actually affect the common people and need attention.
The State and its capital have already faced an embarrassment internationally due to the severe water crisis during summers, he said. The tourism industry had taken a hit due to the crisis and changing name would further affect it.
The oppositions had warned the government of public protests if the government implements this plan.
Sanjay Chauhan – former Mayor of Shimla town- also questioned this plan on the ground that Shimla is a world-renowned name and there is a rich heritage legacy linked to it.
Eventually, on Tuesday, the government had step back and term the entire episode as merely a suggestion. The Chief Minister said it is government’s duty to consider public suggestions.