Identity Crisis: Elphinstone Road Station Has Been Renamed Prabhadevi

Elphinstone Road station, Mumbai.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The BJP government just renamed Elphinstone Road station Prabhadevi after the local goddess enshrined in a temple about two kilometres away. Renaming public institutions is of course among the favourite pastimes of the ruling party. When it was in power in the 1990s, along with the Shiv Sena, they turned Bombay into Mumbai and Victoria Terminus into Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. CST, which has been renamed three times already, will now bear an altered name. It will be called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. It’s as if one honorific, Chhatrapati, is simply inadequate for Shivaji. Two titles are needed even though they mean practically the same thing, that is, king. They did the same thing with the airport last year.

The city dweller is never considered when it comes to renaming familiar places. People who actually take trains are accustomed to Elphinstone Road; many of them continue to refer to CST by its old name VT (Victoria Terminus). This is not something politicians are likely to understand as they rarely take public transport. Their only thought is furthering an agenda, in this case a Hindu, nativist outlook. Earlier this year, the state named the new station on the Western line between Jogeshwari and Goregaon as Ram Mandir. It was originally to be called Oshiwara. The convenience of the name, which immediately recalls their plan to built a Ram temple in Ayodhya, must’ve thrilled them no end – a Ram temple is actually a landmark in the area.

If Shiv Sena member of parliament Arvind Sawant has his way, then three other railway stations will be renamed. He suggests Grant Road be renamed Gamdevi, Currey Road be called Lalbaug and Mumbai Central be named after Jaganath Shunkerseth, the nineteenth-century businessman and philanthropist. Of course the irony of Hindutva groups erasing colonial names is lost on most people and wilfully ignored by the parties themselves. This was evident at a deafening Gudi Padwa procession organised by the Shiv Sena that passed through parts of south Mumbai in March. Among the train of dancers, percussionists and people dressed as Maratha warriors was a tableau with an actor playing Savarkar in the Andaman jail being beaten by a colonial officer. The idea was to tom-tom Savarkar’s nationalist credentials notwithstanding his plea of mercy to the British, a fact that the Sena and BJP rarely acknowledge. The BJP also conveniently ignores its own history, namely the fact that its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), supported colonial rule for the sake of political expedience.

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