Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia is a well known name in Punjab. Year after year, the state's oldest daily newspaper, The Tribune, marks his birth anniversary and carries his picture on the front page, for he was the founder of the paper. A businessman otherwise, Majithia was a philantropist from the core of his heart. He founded the Punjab National Bank that is now a PSU. And hardly incidentally given the kind of person Majithia was, a large chunk of his wealth went into a trust that would disseminate education. It did so through the Dyal Singh College, set up in Lahore in 1910, and moved to the national capital in 1959.
Think Dyal Singh, and people in Punjab also remember Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who fought Sati, polygamy, child marriage, and fought for widow remarriage. Both were , in their own ways, way ahead of their times.
On Nov 17, the name of the 117-year-old college was changed, in keeping with the times and the powers that be. It was named “Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya”. It was done on the grounds that the evening college has become a regular college, worthy of a new name ! And the one who expressed happiness with the name change was BJP leader Amitabh Sinha, chairman of the governing body of the college.
Among those shocked was the Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal. “It is unacceptable and shocking. The person who is so keen to change the name must change his own name. He can put all his wealth to create something and give it whatever name he wants," she fumed.
A descendent of the Majithia dynasty, the minister pointed out that even in modern day Pakistan, the name of Dyal Singh Majithia is held in high esteem, and colleges with his name continue without any name change. Her brother Bikramjit Singh Majithia was a minister in the Badal cabinet in Punjab till the Shiromani Akali Dal lost elections in March.
In fact, Harsimrat's clout will be put to the test as she protests the name change, given the Shiromani Akali Dal is a member of the NDA. The BJP and SAD have always held hands in coalition in Punjab, where the BJP has been the junior partner.
Capt Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab, has a million reasons to oppose the Badals. But now he has opposed the renaming of the Dyal Singh College, saying the founder was a progressive visionary. "We should preserve his great legacy instead of indulging in petty name changing games," he thundered.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has lodged a complaint against the change of name, and decided to protest if the name change is not rescinded.
The nation, incidentally, is still trying to remember that most government programmes have acquired new names since the BJP came to power—that the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Yojana is nothing but the old National Rural Livelihood Mission, and that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is what is now called Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.
What's in a name, the bard asked. But in a country where Connaught Place refuses to become Rajiv Chowk, the effort to “transform” by name changing will apparently continue. The point to ponder is, which will be the next college, the next town , the next road, the next institution to acquire a name in keeping with the ruling regime.