Foreign ministry turns down Mamata Banerjee's ‘Bangla’ for West Bengal

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that there might be confusion with neighbouring Bangladesh if West Bengal is renamed ‘Bangla’

Published: 29th March 2017 05:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2017 05:39 PM   |  A+A-

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. | (File|PTI)

Express News Service

KOLKATA: The Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs has doused Mamata Banerjee’s wishes to rename her state to ‘Bangla’ from West Bengal, citing diplomatic confusion over a similarity with neighbouring Bangladesh.

In letters sent to the West Bengal Secretariat Nabanna, and the Union Home Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that there might be confusion with neighbouring Bangladesh if West Bengal is renamed ‘Bangla’, sources said.

On the other hand, sources revealed that the Home Ministry wants the West Bengal government to adopt a name that does not change when pronounced in English, Bengali and Hindi -- like Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat -- for administrative ease.

However, no official letter has been sent to Nabanna with regard to the single name proposal. The West Bengal Assembly, had in August last year passed a resolution stating that the name of the State would be changed to ‘Bangla’ in Bengali, ‘Bengal’ in English and ‘Bangal’ in Hindi. The resolution was sent to the Centre for ratification.

The West Bengal government had cited historical, cultural and political reasons behind the change of name. Mamata Banerjee justified the change saying that the ‘West’ in Bengal is a reminder of the 1947 partition of Bengal into East Bengal (later East Pakistan) and West Bengal province of independent India. West Bengal’s chief minister said she wanted to remove the colonial vestige for marketing the ‘Brand Bengal’ image to attract foreign and domestic investment.

Secondly, the West in Bengal sends the eastern state to the end of the list during meetings of chief ministers and bureaucrats with the Prime Minister and union ministers. According to sources, Mamata Banerjee had to wait for over six hours for her turn to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inter-state security meet held in 2016. Sources revealed that Mamata had then decided that she had to change the name of the State to only Bengal, so that she would not have to wait to meet the central leaders in Delhi.

Initially, Mamata had suggested ‘Bongo’ or ‘Bongodesh’ for Bengal. This name -- besides ‘Bangladesh’ -- was often used by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in his writings, to denote the Bengal region. However, after extensive discussions with litterateurs and  ministers, Mamata decided to settle for ‘Bangla’.

Now the foreign ministry’s disapproval would means that West Bengal either sticks to its name, or find another alternative that does not sound similar to our eastern neighbour.

The West Bengal BJP had vehemently opposed the name change and held rallies in various districts against the proposal. The saffron party had stated that the ‘West’ in Bengal is a reminder that the piece of land was carved out of Muslim-majority Bengal as a Hindu home and has memories related to its partition.

‘Bangladesh’ has always been the historic name for Bengal, used in literature emerging from the region.  However, the eastern flank adopted the name after their independence from Pakistan in 1971, leaving the west with a geographical indicator.


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