Why was Aurangabad’s city name changed to Sambhajinagar by the Maharashtra government?

The Uddhav Thackeray Cabinet on Wednesday (June 29) evening approved the renaming of Aurangabad city as Sambhajinagar and Osmanabad city, which is named after the previous ruler of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, as Dharashiv. This was the Uddhav Thackeray Cabinet’s last significant decision before resigning on 29th June.

Why have these cities been renamed?

In preparation for the expected fall of the 31-month-old Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government following the floor test slated for June 29, the Shiv Sena has changed its name in an effort to bolster its Hindutva credentials. Under pressure from its secular partners NCP and Congress, the Sena broke its vow to rename Aurangabad in particular, and the opposition BJP has constantly made fun of them for it.

Over the past week, the Sena rebels under the leadership of Eknath Shinde have publicly questioned the Shiv Sena’s devotion to Hindutva and claimed that Balasaheb Thackeray’s party is steadily reneging on its key principles at the behest of the NCP and Congress.

Why renaming Aurangabad was crucial?

Malik Ambar, a Siddi general of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar, built Aurangabad in 1610. Following Malik Ambar’s death in 1626, Fateh Khan, the son of Malik Ambar, changed the city’s name from Khirki or Khadki to Fatehpur.

The Deccan was invaded by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1653, who established his capital there and gave it the new name of Aurangabad. Since then, the name of the city has been linked to Aurangzeb.

On instructions from Aurangzeb, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the son, and successor of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was brutally tortured and murdered in 1689.

What is Shiv Sena’s connection with Aurangabad?

The Shiv Sena first set its sights on Aurangabad in the late 1980s, making it one of the first significant cities outside the Mumbai-Thane region. Due to the city’s 30% Muslim population, polarisation flourished there. In 1988, the Sena won elections to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation following communal disturbances that resulted in the deaths of around 25 people.

Sena leader Balasaheb Thackeray announced on May 8, 1988, that the city will now be known as Sambhajinagar in honor of Sambhaji Maharaj. The Sena-led state government 1995 issued a notification asking for comments on this after the Aurangabad Corporation adopted a resolution to that effect.

What happened after that?

The notification was contested in the High Court by Mushtaq Ahmed, a former AMC corporate and member of Congress. Although the court rejected the plea on the grounds that no judgment had been made, the renaming controversy continued to recur on occasion.

During the previous two years that the Shiv Sena has been in power, the BJP and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have both criticized the party for failing to fulfill Balasaheb’s promise. Congress and the NCP, the Sena’s MVA allies, have expressed opposition to the renaming.

The MVA government approved a plan to rename Aurangabad Airport as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport in March 2020 as a consoling gesture. The Center has not yet given this approval, though. 

The Sena has been referring to Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar in its political speeches and in the party journal Saamna, but the city’s name was never actually changed.


Source: Indian Express

Leave a Comment