UP: Yogi Govt Renames Agra's Jama Masjid Metro Station, Activists Express Anger
Lucknow: Expecting to gain mileage in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state has indicated that it will continue its name-changing spree following demands by saffron outfits.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday flagged off the high-speed trial run of Agra Metro at Taj East Gate metro station located in Fatehabad. The CM made it clear that the name of the Jama Masjid metro station will be Mankameshwar Mandir station. The Metro services will be opened to the public by 2024.
This has led to a debate in Taj City about the name of the Jama Masjid metro station being changed to Mankameshwar Mandir station.
"A committee should be formed to change the name of any city, metro or bus stand. The name should be changed only after the permission of the committee. But the way the ruling government keeps changing names gives rise to a controversy. The name of no metro station in Agra has been changed except Jama Masjid metro station so far. If anyone had any objection, then it never came in the public domain nor any newspaper," Naresh Paras, an RTI activist based in Agra, told NewsClick.
Explaining the "name-changing politics", Paras further said, "The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) government changed the names of many districts during its tenure, after which the new government restored them. Both governments did this for political mileage, but common people suffered in between. The saffron government is miles ahead of previous governments in terms of changing names."
Meanwhile, the government faced criticism after it approved the renaming of Faizabad as Ayodhya and Allahabad as Prayagraj in a cabinet meeting chaired by Adityanath in 2018.
According to the government, the demand to change the name of Jama Masjid station has been going on for the last year. Earlier, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya had also assured to rename Jama Masjid station as Mankameshwar Temple. A memorandum to change the name of Jama Masjid too was handed over to the chief minister when he was in Mathura recently.
Bhartiya Muslim Vikas Parishad chairman Sami Aghai in Agra, speaking to NewsClick, said, "No one had demanded to name Jama Masjid Metro; it was proposed by Agra Metro itself. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on Wednesday, in his address, mentioned Mankameshwar Metro station instead of Jama Masjid station. In Agra, the dalit capital of India, the metro station should have been named after BR Ambedkar. A group of dalit activists had been demanding this for a long time."
The activist further argued that he never saw any metro/railway station or bus stand named after a religious place. It has always been in the name of a 'Mahapurush' or a freedom fighter, but due to politics, it has been changing.
The social activists also confirmed to NewsClick that a group of dalit community met Baby Rani Maurya, a prominent dalit face of BJP and now a cabinet minister in the state government who became the first woman mayor of Agra. They handed over a memorandum to keep the metro station name in the name of BR Ambedkar. A memorandum was also given to Agra BJP MLA and former UP minister GS Dharmesh.
Kartar Singh Bharti, a senior dalit activist who also wrote a book on Ambedkar when he visited Agra, told NewsClick, "Ever since it was announced that the metro would pass by the powerhouse, we have been demanding to keep the metro station name after Ambedkar. We held several demonstrations and handed a memorandum to the higher authorities, but it was turned down."
Talking about Agra and its history, Bharti said, "On March 18, 1956, Ambedkar, along with his wife, came to Agra and joined a conference near the powerhouse. Barely 200 meters from the powerhouse, there is a statue of Lord Buddha. There is also a famous park named after Ambedkar given to then chief minister Mayawati. The people living near the metro station are also among the millions who believe in Lord Buddha. Despite all this, the government rejected our demand and named it Mankameshwar Mandir station instead of BR Ambedkar Metro station/chowk," he said, adding that this shows the government's attitude towards dalits.
The civil society is gearing up to begin a protest in Agra from Friday against Adityanath's decision to keep the metro station name on the temple.
The proposals assume electoral significance as the Lok Sabha polls are scheduled for next year. The Opposition parties have termed the name-changing proposals as ''electoral gimmicks'' intended to hide the failures of the state government.
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