While some commuters are indifferent to the Indian Railways’ move to rename suburban railway stations, historians say it will rob the city and its residents of their past.
“Taking a name away because it belongs to a different time period and community is actually denying people knowledge about that period. The politicians who are demanding the name change are doing grave injustice to the people by robbing them of their past. The move only reeks of insecurity in accepting one’s history,” says Mariam Dossal, a former HOD, History Department, University of Mumbai.
She adds, “Lord Elphinstone had a major contribution to the inception of the railways in Mumbai. If they can’t accept his importance, then just do away with the railways itself.” Saying that Mumbai’s history is attached to its railways and its station names, Pascal Lopes, a researcher of Mumbai’s history and coins, says, “By changing their names, you will not be able to change history, so it is best to leave it as it is.”
The idea to change the names of railway stations was mooted by Shiv Sena, saying a station’s name must be connected to the area around which it is located. “These stations are named after colonial rulers who no longer rule our country. Also, most of the railway stations are named after the area or prominent landmark around them like Dockyard Road due to the presence of Mazgaon dock. Then why do certain exceptions in names prevail?” asked Sena MP Arvind Sawant.
In March, State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote from Shiv Sena led a delegation of leaders, including Sawant, to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to demand a change in nomenclature of stations.
They asked for Mumbai Central to be renamed after noted philanthropist and scholar Jagannath Sunkersett, Grant Road to be called Gamdevi and Charni Road Girgaum. On the harbour line, the Sena wants Sandhurst Road to be Dongri, Cotton Green to Kalachowki and Reay Road to Ghodapdeo. They also want Currey Road to be renamed Lalbaug.
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will officially announce the new names of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Elphinstone Road Station as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSTM) and Prabhadevi respectively at a function in Mumbai on Saturday.
Locals dismissed the move as a political gimmick. A V Shenoy, a resident of Girgaum, said, “No commuter or resident will even remember which political party was instrumental in changing the name of the railway station ahead of 2019 elections. What we remember at the end is the code forms of these stations.”
Other residents and commuters condemned the move for its “futility”. “This move is not going to help anybody and it is only more money going down the drain. Some of the names they want to change do not even have a British origin. Charni Road gets its name from the cattle grazing fields near the station and Dadar refers to steps. Why change their names?” said Aadil Desai, a Dadar resident.
“Years after Victoria Terminus (VT) was changed to CST, it is still commonly called VT. It takes years for people to get used to a name and this lates change will also take a long time to register in people’s minds,” said Mathew Thayil, a commuter.
However, Amit Bhadricha, a Marine Lines resident, has a different view. “Name change is not a big issue. In fact, the proposal is valid as some of the names like Cotton Green did not make sense. It will also be helpful to trace the areas according to the names of the railway stations.”
Last year, Oshiwara station’s name was changed to Ram Mandir after political parties demanded it. It is named after a century-year-old Ram Mandir near the station.