Saffron misadventures continue in WB as Modi renames Kolkata port

Was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee the BJP’s best choice for the renaming?

Modi Rename port

BJP has been eyeing West Bengal for decades now. After the debacle of the Left, the Right had hoped it would be a cake walk for them, but Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress has proved to be a thorn in their side, forcing the Modi regime to try stunts like renaming places after Sangh luminaries in a bid to build a legacy in the region.

On January 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a gathering n the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Kolkata Port Trust and announced that henceforth it will be known as the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Port. He also tweeted his decision in chaste Hindi, a language not favoured much by the bhadralok of Bengal.



So, who is Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and why was he picked by the Modi regime to play the name game? Why were other luminaries like Raja Rammohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, etc. passed over for the renaming? For starters, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee is the father of the Jan Sangh, the ideological forebearer of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Many people see him as a divisive icon, and even a British loyalist.

In a piece that traces Mukherjee’s alleged pro-British bias The Telegraph quoted the following excerpts from Gautam Chattopadhyay’s book Swadhinata Sangrame Bharater Chhatro Samaj:

“(The) Bangiyo Pradeshik Chhatra Federation came into existence from an event in 1936…. One of the events that had unfolded around this time had shaken the student community. A wing to provide military training to students — University Training Corps — was constituted in Calcutta University. They would hold a march past on the occasion of the university’s foundation day (January 24). The then vice-chancellor of the university, Dr Syama Prasad Mukhopadhyay, had issued an order that on the day of the march past, the students would have to salute the British flag, the Union Jack.

“The students protested this on the day of the march past and one of the students of Vidyasagar College declined to salute the flag of the Raj. He was immediately whipped. The students of the college erupted in protest. They called a strike immediately. Syama Prasad ordered that two student leaders of the college, Dharitri Ganguly and Umapada Majumdar, be rusticated from both the college and the university.

“The student community of entire Bengal launched a protest against this autocratic diktat. Student strikes spread across Bengal…. The Calcutta University senate was eventually forced to relent in the face of the collective resistance by students, and Dharitri and Umapada returned to their college with their honour restored.”

Gautam Chattopadhyay (1924-2006) was the founder secretary of Paschimbanga Itihas Anusandhan Samsad, which provided a platform for history scholars to publish their papers in Bangla. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was the VC of Calcutta University from 1934 to 1938. 

This is why a group of students led a protest march to express their displeasure with the Kolkata Port being renamed after someone who they consider too be a “divisive Hindutva icon”. They said worthier icons who represent Bengali culture and have contributed to India’s democratic values were clearly ignored. A protester told The Telegraph, “The renaming is as wild as instituting a Nobel Peace prize after US president Donald Trump 100 years from now.”

But the name-game does not appear to have an end in sight. Subramanyam Swamy has now appealed to the BJP to consider renaming Kolkata’s historic Victoria Memorial! He tweeted, “I welcome Namo’s statement in Kolkata that History, as we know, should be reviewed. He should implement that statement by re-naming Victoria Memorial as Rani Jhansi Smarak Mahal. Queen Victoria took over India after the betrayal of Rani Jhansi in 1857 and looted India for 90 years”.



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