Amitabh Bachchan is a legendary actor of Indian film industry also known as the Bollywood. He is an iconic figure in Indian cinema and society, having a followership of millions of Hindi cinema fans around the world. He is a style icon whose dresses, accessories and mannerism are admired nationwide and he remains a source of inspiration. One of the reasons for his success as an actor is his delivery of dialogues. He traces this to the poetic legacy he inherits from his father and the literary and academic stature of his birthplace, the city of Allahabad. In many of his interviews he proudly describes his relationship with his city of origin which has been home to many renowned literary and political figures. Prime ministers Jawahar Lal Nehru and his daughter Indra Gandhi contested and won from this city. Cities have a personality of their own. Allahabad has been known for being a hub of knowledge and literary activities. It is home to one of the most reputable universities of India. It is considered a good venue to prepare for the civil services examination. The city is marked with historic sites associated with different eras of Indian history and religious diversity including Ashoka’s pillar, sacred banyan tree, Khusrau Bagh and Alfred Park. These monuments are some of the symbols of Hindu, Mughal and British periods of Indian history. The city has a particular sacred significance for Hindu religion as it hosts the site known as Sangum where rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati meet. An annual festival known as Kumbh Mela is arranged here and is attended by millions of visitors. The city has therefore been a symbol of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. There have never been any serious religious riots reported from this city and it represents the harmonious and secular identity of Indian political vision. Since the inception of Modi government in India, the secular identity of the state has undergone many questionable episodes. One of the recent attempts at ‘desecularising’ Indian political and social identity is the change of name of the historical city of Allahabad to its old name Prayag on proposal of an RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. The city was named Illahabad by the Mughal emperor Akbar, known as one of the most secular minded rulers of India. It is claimed that he actually named it after a legendary figure from Hindu history Alah or illah, ‘abad’ was added to give it the Persian ‘touch’. That is the reason why the city is not spelled in Urdu as Allahabad, but as ‘Illahabad’. The move to make it a significant city of Mughal empire by building a fort here and changing its name was inspired by its strategic location. This was a political and administrative decision rather than a religious one. Subcontinent of the Ashoka, Mughal or British days has been divided into three sovereign states now, but the inhabitants of these states remain citizens of the subcontinent in a cultural, historical and emotional sense which must not be confused with the legal status. Cities are not defined by mere structures, their better introduction is the legacy of memories they carry, the way people identify themselves with them, be it a common citizen or a celebrity like Mr Bachchan. India is a sovereign democratic state. Its sovereignty lies with its people represented by their parliament. The elected legislatures represent the interests of the masses. I acknowledge and respect the right of Uttar Pradesh cabinet to name their city as they please. As a citizen of Pakistan, I have no legal right to interfere in or judge their decision-making process. But as a citizen of the subcontinent, I reserve the emotional right to comment and to get hurt. I understand that emotional rights are not documented. They are not to be claimed in a court, but are meant to be felt. The kingdom of hearts has a special penal code of its own as its jurisdiction is beyond geographies, war histories and politics. I don’t register Mr Akbar Hussain Rizvi very well, but you say Akbar Allahabadi and the heart smiles. The poet had a great sense of humor and he presented deep thoughts in a light poetic manner. He is one of the pioneers of sarcasm in Urdu poetry and developed a genre of his own. Since the inception of Modi government in India, the secular identity of the state has undergone many questionable episodes. One of the recent attempts at ‘desecularising’ Indian political and social identity is the change of name of the historical city of Allahabad to its old name Prayag on proposal of an RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyayaa Wasn’t it possible to change the English spellings of the city’s name to Illahabad rather than changing the name itself? I can understand the impetus to please the rightist vote-bank on both sides of the border. May be naming the city ‘Prayag Illahabad’ could serve the electoral campaign’s multiple requirements, or has the BJP decided to focus exclusively on extreme nationalism and religious fundamentalism mandate? Let’s admit that in both the states, the extreme-right is becoming politically significant. We saw Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a new right-wing party in Pakistan, gaining a significant number of votes in all constituencies it contested from in the recently-held general elections. RSS has been influential in many policy decisions made by the Modi government. I don’t perceive TLP or RSS as political parties, I see them as mindsets, viciously translated into electoral votes. These mindsets are dangerous for the future of any peace initiatives in the region. They simply don’t let the governments focus on development-oriented strategies. With the low literacy rate in both the states, religious vote is the easiest to embark upon. You don’t need to plead on basis of your performance or manifesto, you just have to come up with rhetorical religious references and some ‘well-worded’ hate speech against other beliefs. That is a much convenient route to political power. On this route, there come some memories, emotions, identities, but as they say, politics is heartless. These extremist moves to change names like changing that of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital or protesting the renaming of Shadman Chowk to Bhagat Singh Chowk in Lahore, keep surfacing from time to time. We need to develop and strengthen ‘peace communities’ in both the states. These include coalition of politicians, civil society, media and academia. It all depends on how well these peace communities can resist the extreme-religious-nationalist groups. We know of Muslim fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalism, we need to develop humanist fundamentalism, an identity which carries the legacy of expectance and acceptance of all diverse sub-identities. Vote-banks are important, so are memory-banks. People live in cities and cities live in their hearts. Undoing a name doesn’t undo the memories associated with it. Cultural identity of one of the most harmonious and liberal cities of subcontinent has been victimised by our narrow approach to nationalism. We need to learn to embrace our shared history rather than getting embarrassed about it. Akbar Allahabadi (Prayagvi now) wrote, “woh hawa na rahi woh chaman na raha woh gali na rahi woh haseen na rahey woh falak na raha woh saman na raha woh makan na rahey woh makeen na rahey” (It’s no more….that environment , that garden, that street , those beloved faces. It’s no more…that sky, that atmosphere, those homes and their dwellers) One feels like saying ,” Akbar sahib ! Your Allahabad is also no more your Allahabad”. Published in Daily Times, October 21st 2018.