Himachal Pradesh Health Minister Vipin Singh Parmar on Sunday said the government may consider any proposal to rename the state’s capital Shimla, PTI reported. The historic names of many cities in different parts of the country have been changed, he added.
Parmar’s comments came two days after Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the government would seek public opinion on the matter. “Before the British arrived, Shimla was known as Shyamala,” the Hindustan Times quoted Thakur as saying on the sidelines of Dussehra celebrations at Jakhu temple on Friday evening. “My government will seek public opinion on the demand for its renaming.”
The demand to rename the city, which has gained momentum after the Uttar Pradesh government changed the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, is a longstanding objective of Hindutva groups. In 2016, then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh rejected the proposal to rename Shimla, saying the city was an internationally famous tourist destination.
“Slavery can either be physical, mental or cultural,” Vishwa Hindu Parishad state president Aman Puri told the Hindustan Times. “Sticking to names given by oppressors is sign of mental slavery. Changing names of town is a small but significant step. The country had done away with several symbols of British rule after independence, but in Himachal, several names remain of the colonial time.”
The Hindutva outfit has also demanded that Hotel Peterhoff, which is run by the state tourism department, be named after sage Valmiki. The hotel, which was the residence of the governor generals and viceroys of British India, was the venue of the trial of Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. It housed the the Punjab High Court after independence and also served as the Raj Bhavan before being gutted in a fire. It was rebuilt in 1991.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad also wants the city of Dalhousie to be named after Subhas Chandra Bose and Nurpur town – which gets its name from Mughal empress Nur Jahan – to be named after 1857 mutiny leader Ram Singh Pathania.
Senior state Congress leader Harbhajan Singh Bhajji, however, questioned the government’s intentions. “What is the justification [for renaming Shimla]?” PTI quoted him as saying. “This is a historical city and if you change its name, it will lose its character.” Bhajji asked the government to focus on ensuring the state’s development and progress.
Shimla was declared the summer capital of British India in 1864. It retained the status till 1947.