The Mamata Banerjee government’s move to rename West Bengal as “Bangla” may be hindered after the Union Home Ministry wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), sharing concerns that the new name may sound like Bangladesh, and it would be difficult to differentiate the two at international forums, officials said. The neighboring country shares close and friendly relations with India, therefore it was advised that a response from MEA on West Bengal’s proposal should be obtained before examining it further, sources said, adding that unlike the change in name of a city or district, the change in name of the state will require a Constitutional amendment.
Elaborating on the process, a top Home Ministry official said, “Once we receive a response from MEA, a draft note for the Cabinet will be prepared to bring an amendment. The Constitution amendment bill will then be introduced in Parliament and will need to be approved there, before it goes to the President.”
The official also cited the example of Orissa in 2010-11 to Odisha when the Orissa (Alteration of Name) Bill, 2010, and the Constitution (113th Amendment) Bill, 2010, were moved by then Home Minister P Chidambaram on the basis of resolutions passed by the state’s Assembly. As per Article 3(e) of the Constitution, “Parliament may by law alter the name of any State provided that no Bill for the purpose shall be introduced in either House of Parliament except on the recommendation of the President and unless, where the proposal contained in the Bill affects the area, boundaries or name of any of the States, the Bill has been referred by the President to the Legislature of that State for expressing its views thereon.
West Bengal government in June proposed the name change, citing historical, cultural and political reasons. Banerjee justified the move, saying that the “West” in Bengal is a reminder of the 1947 partition of Bengal into East Bengal (later East Pakistan) and the West Bengal province of independent India.
The move to change the name was hastened after Banerjee ended up as the last chief minister to speak at the 2016 Inter-State Council meeting in Delhi, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the list of the names of the states was prepared in alphabetical order and West Bengal figured last. The West Bengal BJP had opposed the move to change the name of the state. The party argued that the “West” in Bengal is a reminder that the piece of land was carved out of Muslim-majority Bengal.
In 2016, the West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution to change the name of West Bengal to Bangla in Bengali, Bengal in English and Bangal in Hindi. However, the Home Ministry objected, saying that there should not be separate names in the three languages. Banerjee had also proposed that the name should be changed to “Paschim Bongo” (West Bengal in Bengali) but it too did not find favour with the Central government.