The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved renaming of Faizabad and Allahabad divisions as Ayodhya and Prayagraj respectively.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Khanna told reporters.
Prayagraj division will comprise Prayagraj, Kaushambi, Fatehpur and Pratapgarh districts, while Ayodhya division will include Ayodhya, Ambedkarnagar, Sultanpur, Amethi and Barabanki districts, Khanna said.
The decision came a day after the Allahabad high court asked the Centre and the state government to file counter affidavits within a week on a petition challenging the decision to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj.
Justices Vikram Nath and Rajesh Singh Chauhan of the Lucknow bench fixed the next hearing on Monday.
The sudden spate in changing the names of key UP districts, towns and railway stations drew criticism from not only the opposition but the ruling National Democratic Alliance constituent Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party too.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav blamed the chief minister for taking credit by just renaming cities.
“Raja Harshvardhan made ‘Prayag Kumbh’ great by offering donations, but today’s rulers are trying to take credit for the work just by renaming the city to ‘Prayagraj’,” the former chief minister tweeted earlier.
“They (BJP) have even re-named ‘Ardh Kumbh’ as ‘Kumbh’. This mocks our tradition and belief,” he said.
The Congress, too, had hit out at the ruling dispensation, with a party leader saying that changing the name of the historic city to ‘Prayagraj’ is an attempt to toy with the history of the nation.
Uttar Pradesh minister and SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar mocked the Bharatiya Janata Party over the move and said the party should change names of its Muslim leaders before changing the names of different towns and places.
“The BJP changed the names of Mughalsarai and Faizabad. They say they were named after the Mughals. They have a national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohsin Raza - three Muslim faces of the BJP. They should change their names first.”
He said that the names of places were changed just to divert attention of the backward and oppressed people from the issues, which concern them.
“This is all a drama to distract the backward and oppressed people whenever they raise their voices for their rights. No one else has given the things that Muslims have given. Should we throw away the GT Road? Who built the Red Fort? Who built the Taj Mahal,” he asked.
Earlier, the government renamed the Mughalsarai Railway station, another historic spot, as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction.
In August this year, the UP government had sent a request to the Centre to rename the airports in Agra, Bareilly and Kanpur. According to reports, the proposal is to rename the Agra airport after Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
The ruling BJP has, however, justified the name changes across Uttar Pradesh, saying they are merely restoring older names and correcting historical distortions.
Allahabad’s ancient name was ‘Prayag’, but was changed after 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar built a fort near ‘Sangam’, the holy confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
Akbar named the fort and its neighbourhood ‘Ilahabad’. Later, Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan renamed the entire city as ‘Allahabad’. But the area near the ‘Sangam’, the site of the Kumbh Mela, continues to be known as ‘Prayag’.