Bangalore and Babri

Tolerate one outrage and you tolerate them all

They just knocked down another edifice erected by a foreigner and restored it back to its previous (original, the demolition crew would contend) state. Yet while the demolition of the Babri Masjid carries with it the stigma of embarassment and shame, nothing of that nature accompanies the renaming (actually, changing the English spelling) of Bangalore to Bengaluru. And Mysore to Mysuru. And Mangalore to Mangaluru. And Shimoga to Shivamogga. And Belgaum to Belagavi. And so on. This was not an isolated act of etymological terrorism by the H D Kumaraswamy government in Karnataka. It was a full-fledged blitzkrieg.

Those seeking to explain the reasons for the change have not strayed far from the reasons offered by its proponents—that it setts right the wrongs of colonialism. But anti-colonialism just does not click in a city as cosmopolitan, as globalised and as forward-looking as Bangalore. A few chauvinists-looking-for-self-aggrandisement apart, most residents of Bangalore care little about the English spelling of their city. Kannadigas and local residents used to call it Bengaluru anyway. Some political observers are likely to see this as the latest in a trend that caused Calcutta, Bombay and Madras (remember them?) re-spell their names in English. But the truth is that the “let’s rename our city” agenda only crops up with governments suffering from policy-bankruptcy looking to do something that grabs the headlines. [Indeed, once they are done with reverting to ‘pre-colonial’ names, the new wave might even be—a la Bollywood—numerology : Benggalooroo?]

Renaming cities does nothing for any of its residents, and certainly not for its poorest ones. It just involves a waste of resources repainting signboards and reprinting stationery.

The principal argument against the demolition of the Babri Masjid was that the sentiments of the minority ought to be respected, even protected, from the tyranny of the majority—regardless of the validity of historical claims or indeed the actual views of the majority. That is an eminently sensible argument. And it is as applicable to the re-spelling of Bangalore as it is to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. So where’s the outrage then? Or do the self-professed advocates of rights and freedoms raise their placards and climb on to their podiums only when there is a religious or communal angle to it? Will an attempt to rename Ahmedabad or Hyderabad be greeted with the same resignation and silence?

Here’s the rub: it is precisely because Indians take such bloodless outrages lying down that other bloody outrages are allowed to happen.

62 thoughts on “Bangalore and Babri”

  1. Good point, Nitin.

    I have always wondered why places like Aurangabad, Aligarh, Ahmadnagar, Allahabad etc. are never considered for reverting to their earlier names. These too couldnt have been in vogue longer than say, Bombay or Calcutta. So, if historical and cultural compulsions force a change of name in these places (where the change was from an Anglical trend), why cant they look at the Islamist conversions as well?

    Anyways, as you rightly mention, the re-naming exercise does very little for the city, even culturally!

  2. Gaurav,

    I belong to that minority. I think Bengaluru is an assault on my preferences. If you don’t think so, I may ask who are you to judge. If you ask how can I compare a mosque with a city, I think the latter is more important.

  3. All,

    I belong to a linguistic minority group settled in BLR. I do not think I have a right to force my preferences onto the majority here. If the renaming is an assault on my preferences, then the Anglicized name could always be seen in similar terms as an attack on the local culture.

    I agree its sheer votebank politics but nothing has been “destroyed” and nobody has been victimized, unlike Babri.

    One of the interesting things I note is that many who are unhappy today with this name change didnt utter a peep when cities in their ‘home’ states were being renamed, Madras –> Chennai, Trivandrum –> Thiruvananthapuram etc. Some that I know have lived in those cities for quite some time, including thru the name transitions and are still cribbing here at this change.

    Bengaluru is so close to Bangalore that it is unlikely to be mistaken for another place unlike Madras/Chennai.


  4. Hi Nitin

    i beg to differ from you and need to agree with Gaurav that this post is bit over the top-uncharacteristic of you

    I think its better to concede to this ‘resonable’ request rather than give some leeway to the language chauvinist to whip up negative energy of the populace .

    There are dime a dozen chauvinist who are currently marginalised -operating only on the fringes .And taking tough stand on issues likes this can only embolden them -given the fact that Bangalore is on the throes of massive unplanned urban expansion,they might find takers for their brand of virulent language chauvinism

    Its not a sign of weak kneed approach..The state’s strategy to accomodate strong linguistic aspiration of regions(atleast in South India) has really proved to creative approach to national integeration.Its been proved that strong language identity and even stronger national identity can powerfully co-exist (unlike our experience with religious identity(especially Islamic) which has proved fissiparous ).Karnatka had/will never have any instance of language inspired secessionist movement.

    For example if not for Anna’s anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu,Hindi would have been imposed on the states here and had that happened it had the potential to disintegerate India.Once this demand of not imposing Hindi was conceded,the forces that spearheaded the agitation joined the mainstream and today are whole-heartedely participating in the democratic process

    When our country is facing greater security challenges on the Islamic terror front ,its will be tremendous drain on the already over-stretched offical machinery to be confronted with another problem that we can do without

  5. Prasanna,

    There are lurking chauvinisms of several kinds in India. But they remain vested interests and find little resonance among voters. After the reorganisation of states along linguistic lines and adoption of two/three language formulas in state education, the bulk of the ethno-linguistic aspirations of the people have been catered for.

    I have previously argued that ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity is better managed through greater federalism.

    Appeasement of chauvinists and extremists has never found favour on this blog. It is naive to believe that the chauvinists, once they taste success, will go into quite retirement.

  6. What’s in a name?

    Bring any change and people are bound to dislike it. Who’s stopping anybody from calling ‘Bangalore’ henceforth. I still use Bombay and Calcutta. Though I rarely use Madras while referring to Chennai. No doubt this is done just to appease the vote banks. When politicians fail to deliver on governance, they do the next best thing – change names of monuments and cities. No efforts required.

    For an non-native, it’ll always be difficult to pronounce the native names. But that is initially only. Over a period, they’ll call it properly. When people can pronounce ‘Thiruvananthapuram’ correctly, then why this hue and cry over ‘Bengaluru’. Moreover, it is not difficult to spell/pronounce if you overcome the initial hiccup.

    BTW, Nilu, was Chennai, Mumbai

  7. Just wanted to add….just wait for the official change in name of India to ‘Bharat’. 🙂

  8. Gaurav,

    Now we are talking. What is victimization and what is eccentricity?

    I can refer to someone’s preference of Islam as an eccentricity. Just like you refer to my choice of names. On the contrary, a Muslim in the former case and I in the latter, may think we are victims.

    The point is, you cannot thrust your value judgment on me. And when you condone the change in status quo because you believe one is less idiotic than the other, it simply does not hold up to test of logic.

  9. Nilu,

    But why can’t I thrust my whatever on you? And why does anything has to hold up to test of logic?
    I do, because I can. After all lions do not care about logic.



    To all

    I declare vowel “u” to most sanctified vowel of all. You have one week to make neccessary changes. Also it is blasphemy to use “e” and “i”.

  10. Gaurav,

    Extending that analogy, we should not be having this discussion. The fact that we do, negates your argument.

  11. Nitin, you are missing the point. The ‘official’ difference between British rule and Mughal/Muslim rule is that the former is seen as foreign rule while the latter as “local”. Mughal kings, we are told, assimilated Indian culture. So undoing what a foreigner did to India is patriotic/nationalistic while to undo the damages of Mughal rule is communal.

    That apart, I was having a chat with one of my Kannada friends a few weeks back and he was of the opinion that there is no strong linguistic feeling in Karnataka. He went on to add “unlike in TN” for good measure. But I guess, the love for the language has always been there and until now it was not mobilized. Such movements gather momentum when you identify an enemy. In TN for intance, it was anti-Hindi combined with extreme aversion for Aryan-Brahmin-Sanskrit. As Prasanna points out, Bangalore is now on the verge of a huge class divide. The better paid, high earning tech workers from all parts of India (including Kannadigas) and the people belonging to the old professions – less paying and mostly Kannadigas. The former usually thinks (with vanity) that it is key to Bangalore’s growth while there is a simmering feeling among the latter that the former has screwed Bangalore and has no respect for the local culture.

    This is evident if you have a look at the blogworld after Rajkumar passed away. So in effect Bangalore is sitting on a time bomb – wait till someone exploits the divide and gives it a linguistic and class color!

  12. Nilu,

    I don’t know about you, but I am having discussion because I can.
    You had the option not to argue, but you did, by doing that you served my purpose.
    I can say I manipulated you for my enjoyment.


  13. Sriram,

    Your argument is besides the point. It is not about others, common perceptions or what is correct. It is about me. My right. And others like me.

    If I hold the opinion that ‘Bengaluru’ is an assault on my taste — nothing else matters. I can find a few who do. We constitute a minority. At least as of now, this minority opinion is not illegal. Therefore, our rights should be protected, if that argument was extended to Babri/Muslims.

    The issue is not about pragmatism. And, I really don’t care either way. But the point is, the government has a logical inconsistency in this issue. That is what the author of this blog has pointed to. With which, I agree.

  14. Nilu,

    I do not begrudge you your pleasure. Although I admit that sadism has its valid philosophical aspects, I do not derive my pleasure by denying pleasure to others.

    By the way on logic both Nitin and You are incorrect. If demolition of Babri Masjid was wrong, it was because it was a private property and it was not acquired through eminent domain, it didn’t matter in the least it belonged to minority, it was possible however for state to acquire and demolish it.


  15. Gaurav,

    That’s exactly the point. So, stating that you derive pleasure is redundant when the other person could well be doing the exact thing, only better. Face value is called what it is for a good reason.

    And, Nitin(or I) did not go into the merits of the Babri demolition case. He just put forward the argument that was used by the government. So, if you find that argument wrong, please take it up with the government.

    And, Nitin, am sorry for cluttering your comment space.

  16. Gaurav,

    While that exchange with Nilu was entertaining for a while, it did not do anything for the argument you were making.


    That insight about the ‘class’ divide is interesting. But the inference is a tad alarmist. The anti-cosmopolitan element was there long before the Rajkumar funeral riots (anyone remember KRRS, Nanjundaswamy and their antics against the KFC on Brigade road? Or the general handwringing against pub-culture prior to that?). Or the Cauvery riots for that matter. But by and large Bangaloreans (new and old) remain cool. It must be the weather 🙂

    Nevertheless, your warning about someone exploiting language or class cannot be ignored. It is for that reason that we should not appease them.

  17. I guess the government is fairly consistent. The government is undoing things done by foreigners. As per the government, only British are foreigners and Mughals have become locals since they came in. Nitin should infact be contesting the “Mughals are us” line.

  18. Nitin, miscreants are always there in any part of the world. But after Rajkumar’s funeral incidents, there was a widely circulated blog (by a girl, forgot the name) in our office newsgroup. She was lashing out against all ‘foreigners’ in her blog for teasing the locals, being indifferent to bangalore’s problems etc. and there were 100s of comments which resonated with her. You could safely assume that anyone who writes a blog or comments in it is fairly modern. Then imagine the uneducated, disgruntled lot – the ones who missed the ‘IT’ bus. Part of the blame lies on us ‘foreigners’ too who fail to understand that Bangalore has (or had) a culture of its own. You cannot simply say “yuck, I wonder how people eat these ragi balls for lunch. it is so uncool. i prefer pizza”. That rubs even the liberal kannadigas the wrong way.
    Talking of Bangaloreans being cool, I think most of the coolness is simply plastic, the kind promoted and brandished by TOI and Bangalore Times. Everyone wants a slice of Bangalore, so lets respect Kannadigas’ historical claim over the city while they should give us foreigners the due credits for having helped them put it in the global map. All said, love for language should not degenerate to chauvinism. How about writing townbus destinations in English also?

  19. The logical inconsistency of the Govt, alluded to in the post has been there as early as the dog years of 1990/1991/1992 when I was still a high school student in Bangalore/Bengalooru!!

    One year, we got holidays due to Mandal agitation.. when Govt claimed reservations were to correct historical wrongs! (the SC/ST/backward communities had to get reservations because they were given a bad time for long)
    The very next year the same Govt (or the next disastrous one) after the Babri demolition rejected the same argument (That the Hindus who had a bad time under the Mughals were going to right historical wrong of a mosque built on a temple)

    It didnt matter to us. We just used it to play a lot of cricket!!!

  20. Nitin,

    I was never proving anything.In facr I was expecting my comments to be deleted, as they were offtopic


    You realize proving logical inconsistency is not enough for your case. Also, I doubt Nitin and you hold the identical position.


  21. Liniguistic terrorism and blitzkrieg.. wow !! How does it terrorize the any of the liguistic minorities who call Bengaluru home ? (btw. I am not a Kannadiga). It may not be your preferred name, but terrorism.. ?? May be you should have thrown in a Hitler and a Fascist and religious fundamentalist too.. ?


  22. >>May be you should have thrown in a Hitler and a Fascist and religious fundamentalist too.. ?

    This comment thread is now officially Godwin’s Law compliant.

  23. Nitin, the comparison between changing name of a city to the demolition of babri masjid is not appropriate. It is only the politicians who decided on this .did u find any mass agitations on the streets of bangalore or in any of those 12 cities pressing the government to change the names of the cities? Today the discussion in the streets, canteens etc… among even kannadigas went along the lines of politicians are doing this for their own purposes and not because of any great affection for the kannada language or people.

    And if someone thinks that it is merely the reaction of so called liberal. modern, yuppie kannadigas then they might be surprised to learn that the so called poor, underclass kannadigas are also only now finding out about the name changes in their morning newspaper just like the rest of us and are just as surprised as anyone else. even they never asked for it.

    this is a clear open and shut case of politicians doing their own thing without consulting the people at large. A more appropriate comparison would have been the 27% OBC reservation announced all of a sudden by the UPA in the summer without again consulting the people at large or maybe the name changes of kolkata, chennai, kerala and mumbai before this.

  24. @@ Kunal

    Not really, the WWII German references were thrown in by the author, I merely asked him why he stopped at Blitzkrieg and didnt include the other standard invective as well. If anything the parallels were drawn by Nitin, not me. This thread may be following Godwins law, but if it is, it was so right from the start, not after my post.

  25. Kunal, Sudeep,

    Yes, this post was already Godwin’s law compliant, indeed, it even complies to its Indian equivalent—connecting it to the Babri Masjid affair. And this was intentional.


    I don’t disagree that the ‘us vs them’ mindset exists. But as a problem it is overrated. For example, you don’t have to work in the IT industry to benefit—the ‘old’ Bangaloreans (at least those who owned a plot of land or a house) have seen unprecedented asset appreciation. And during my most recent trip to Bangalore, one well-known blogger told me how some auto-drivers have moved up the value chain by ferrying call-centre/BPO staff between work and home. They’ve been able to pay off the vehicle loans (for the mini-vans) within a year.


    You are on thin ground with respect to Babri. Do you think its demolition was not decided by politicians?

  26. Nitin, I understand what you’re saying, but I think the Babri demolition comparison is a bit of a stretch. Your point about chauvinism is very valid, and this should be seen as yet another instance of good for nothing politicians creating issues of nothing (which could also be said of Babri, I realise that, but not in terms of the impact).

    May be Bangalorean readers can tell me if some of the apparent resentment really exists or is just something that is being used by vested interests? If we cannot even welcome people from other parts of India, how can we be comfortable with our people going overseas in numbers? Isn’t there a certain dissonance there?

  27. the change in name is not imposed on everybody or anybody. its just for official use. it is really annoying to hear your state/town/place name pronounced distortedly. but i also agree that it was not necessary. even then i feel that it is a step in right direction.

  28. @nitin.

    I think u did not get my point.Was there any big threatning mob outside Vidhana soudha demanding the name change at any point in the last one year? The first time we ever heard of this was when the Cong led govt announced their intention last year without the people at large ever asking for it.

    The Ayodhya movement was totally different compared to this and the comparison here simply doesn’t hold.

  29. Nitin,

    Perhaps before changing any City’s name, the Mayor of the City must hold a referendum to ask the City’s permanent residents (ppl with house or ppl who have lived more than 5 years?) if they approve the name change or not. Of course majority-group will win it hands down but it will also provide a clear picture of the no. of ppl who oppose it. There might be suprises too and on the positive side, you can expect the whole! city to vote!

    Just a thought!

  30. Hi All bloggers U R all deviating from the main subject. It hurts or pains nonkannadigas who have made Bangalore their home. Pl let me what Hindiised name do you want for Bangalore?. where were U guys when Bombay became Mumbai or Madras , Chennai.{in fact Madras is the anglicised version of Madarasa} No body objected not even the Muslims. Calcutta can become Kolkota ,Ja Ja you need a big “O” to be Bengalised. In one stroke our Next door Neighbour changed the names of seven towns of Kerala, yes that Senile politician of Kerala did it. It seems to be pot calling kettle Black. I do not know If it is the Hindi walas eho are so vocal. Let me tell you , WE HATE YOU. You have ruined our beautiful city.

  31. Bala,

    Yes, putting it to vote via a referendum is the best mechanism to settle the matter. But I’m not sure we have the constitutional provision for such things. Our electoral mechanism is set up to select people, not make policy decisions. Much as I find it a waste of time and energy to even put such a question on the ballot, the referendum offers a compromise that should be acceptable to most people.

  32. Well said, Hituvalli. These people are acting like this is their little colony and their opinion is the only one that matters.

  33. Bala, referendum is the way to go, but for that you need a good city governance. Or atleast delink our cash cow cities from the polity of the state. This will go a long way in making them metropolitan and truly global cities. It is not without reason that the best cities in the US are not state capitals. The capital of NY is not NYCity, but some obscure Albany. Same applies for California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois….
    Delinking cities from states is a tough decision to make, but we have to separate Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkota, Bengalooru and Hyd’bad, to begin with, from the respective states. These cities should be administered by a strong local body and should have democratically elected mayor. Or a federal administration also would make sense. Infy’s NRN has been advocating this for a while now.

    Btw, Nitin, the Indian equivalent for Godwin’s Law these days isnt Babri Masjid, but the “state sponsored pogrom of muslims in Gujarat, where 2 billion muslims were butchered”.

  34. Atlast something positive, yes hand the power to city, but on second thoughts why stop at city though. Decide what as minimum is absolutely required, except for that there is no need to empower state.

    Seom & Hituvalli,

    I disagreed with Nitin and I happen to be a full fledged “bhayya”, please do not devolve it to us vs. them.
    Also I hope you realize in all probability the owner of this blog is from karnataka.


  35. Hituvalli,

    Its about destroying a part of our heritage and wasting of resources. Its abour riding roughshod over the voice of minority.

    And if your argument is because of historical wrongdoings, in that case it mirrors the Babri Masjid argument, the exact point Nitin made.

    As far as your hatred of Hindi Walah goes, I hope you realize that places you in the same category as KKK and Shiv Sena bigots. I am very much a Hindi walah, though I am more amused by your comments than anything else.

    I also disagree about the referendum, in that case we should have decided the fate of Babri Masjid by a referendum? If a majority of people had said yes, then it should have been demolished. Right? Unless there are compelling public policy issues involved, I see no reason the name of any city should be changed, whether Delhi or Bangalore.

  36. Really Nitin? Changing the name of the city (rather reverting it) should be fought over with the same outrage of Mecca destruction (or rather Ayodhya)?

    The parallel is amazing and the tyranny of minority shows. Screw the locals (apparent majority) and their sentiments.

    I can just imagine the secular outrage when Hyderabad changes its name to Bhagyanagar (its original name even though built by local nawab, btw) or, even better, when India (a European name for subcontinent) reverts to Bharat. Then the globlizers and anti-globlizers will have something in common because we need those western names to call ourselves modern, secular, and western. Imagine a Bharat – our secularists would say – backward, castists, (and the biggest sin) a Hindu majority country (although nothing would change, in reality, just like in Bengaluru or Mumbai).

    One won’t see this kind of debate anywhere else – Africa, rest of Asia, Europe, or the Americas – except in our own beloved muddled country.

  37. Did Nitin and Nilu Protest when Bombay became Mumbai or when Calcutta became Kolkatta ? It is still not too late to start a movement against this.

    If you do not like the name Bangalooru you can always move out to any place you want.

    This is a decision by majority of people here..As this was approved by majority of elected MLAs who were in turn elected by us citizens.

    If you can, stand for the election on this platform , get enough MLAs in the next election and reverse the name to Bangalore. I wish you luck.

  38. Shankar,

    ”This is a decision by majority of people here.”

    How do you know that every decision which MLA’s make reflect people’ opinion? In that case, no one should protest against any decision of the government! Wondeful logic! And dude, can we say we don’t like a decision. Can you sire, grant us our freedom of speech?

    It is quite unbelievable how bigoted some individuals are, if you do not like one decision, get out of Bangalore! Excuse me, do you own Bangalore?

  39. Bangalore is always Bangaloru for the locals, managal,ore is managaluru and Hubli is hubballi. This is not exacltly a rename as it is written and spoken in kannada as banagaluru.

    The comparision Nitin is drawing shows how he views things. Comparing the as opposite as it comes…huh. Nitin should take a break off his obsession with anything Muslims and blog something meaningful and constructive.

  40. Zulfiquar,

    Er. I hope you will realize one day(I am an eternal optimist) that this post was not about Muslims. And if Nitin is obsessed with Muslims, glad you have never read me. 🙂

  41. Shankar,

    I suppose you have to re-read my post. It’s entirely about not accepting the tyranny of the majority. Please don’t confuse democracy with mobocracy. As for standing for an election on a name-change plank—you miss my point again—it is as stupid to change it back to Bangalore as it was to change it to Bengluru in the first place. Indeed my post condemns views like the one you expressed: “if you don’t like what the majority likes, then just leave”. That should make any minority (religious, ethnic, cultural etc) deeply disturbed.


    I’m only responding to you because readers here may not know the amount of thought and care you put in before commenting. So I’ll ask you to substantiate the sweeping allegation you’ve made. Every one of my posts is available on the archive…try and tell us how many are “obsession with anything Muslims” and how many are “meaningful and constructive”.

    Quite obviously, you didn’t even understand what this post is about. It’s about protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority. So relax.

  42. Sigh! And I thought Kerry’s remarks being extrapolated to insulting the troops was an American thing. Why do people just read keywords and jump to conclusions.

  43. /digressing from topic


    The boot is on the other foot. It looks like u did not bother to watch the video of Kerry’s speech. The masses are more smarter and perceptive than a pseudo-secular moron pointing finger at them and saying they do not know the “right way” to watch the video of Kerry’s speech.

    here’s some food for thought.

    plus the video here if u haven’t seen it already.

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