Lahore has seen its various chowks (squares), underpasses, roads, and localities being renamed from time to time. Krishan Nagar was famously renamed Islampura, Lawrence Garden became Bagh e Jinnah; the Mall Road, Shahrah e Quaid e Azam; and Ferozepur Road, Shahrah e Jalaluddin Rumi. The general understanding is that this is meant to ‘Islamise’ Hindu and/or Christian names.
Interestingly, the old names are still very much in use, even if in casual references and informal correspondences.
However, the government’s drive has often met with resistance, especially from historians and conservationists. Their stance being that heritage ought to be preserved and, hence, old names retained. On the other hand, hard-liners insist that there is no space for secular or non Muslim names in a country that was created in the name of Islam. Changing Ram Gali to Rehman Gali is a case in point.
Mercifully, the sane voices have been heard at times. We know how a demand, made by a certain group, to rename Gaddafi Stadium after Abdul Sattar Edhi (posthumously) did not materialise. Many underpasses in Lahore were named after historical figures some of whom are, ironically, known to be liberals.
Recently, in a similar move, the Metropolitan Corporation of Lahore (MCL) announced renaming Chowk Nakhuda and Ghoray Shah Road as Siddiq Akbar Chowk and Hazrat Makhdoom Bahauddin Road respectively. Again, there are mixed reactions. Muhammad Farooq, who lives near Chowk Nakhuda, says that many people don’t even know that the word ‘Nakhuda’ means ‘sailor of the boat.’ “Some individuals thought of dedicating it [the chowk] to some one who had existed in history. But ‘nakhuda’ is a common noun, and therefore, no one opposed the suggestion.”
The story of Ghoray Shah Road is no different. As Kamal Ahmad, a resident of Union Council (UC-43), who is against renaming the road, explains: “Saint Bahauddin was popularly known as Ghoray Shah because of his love for horses. In his childhood, the saint used to play with toy horses. He died at a very young age. The visitors to his shrine would buy painted toy horses made of clay, from vendors sitting outside, and place them at the foot of the tomb. If the name is changed, the new generation will forget history.”
Ahmad further says that the MCL has no right to change the name of the shrine and mess with history.
According to Raza Qadri, a resident of UC-44, who approves of the renaming of the road, “Hafiz Bashir initiated it. He runs a seminary (madrassa) in the locality. He, along with the other notables of the area, went to the Chairman UC, Amir Guddu, and demanded renaming of Ghoray Shah Road.
“Bashir’s stance was also favoured by members of the Sunni Tehrik. It’s a public demand to rename the road as Hazrat Makhdoom Bahauddin Road, as this was the real name of the saint.”
The suggestion to change the name was advertised in newspapers last month. Any citizen could submit their objections in written form regarding the renaming of Chowk Nakhuda and Ghoray Shah Road. Not a single person submitted their objections with the office of the MCL, says Nadeem ul Hassan Gilani, Director, CDGL.
According to him, the house passed a resolution supporting the move. The resolution was tabled by public representative/Chairman, Union Council. “We are bound to respect the wishes of the public,” he adds.