In a bizarre development, India’s education panel changes the name of Akbar Allahabadi to ‘Prayagraj’

The name change caused a stir on social media on Tuesday. Netizens went online to express severe criticism and critique.

Uttar Pradesh Higher Education Services Commission (UPHESC), an autonomous body under the state government, has recently changed the name of the famous Indian Urdu poet Syed Akbar Hussain. The poet was popularly known as Akbar Allahabadi, but his name has been changed to Akbar Prayagraj. According to reports, the Allahabad district was renamed Prayagraj in 2018 by the Yogi Adityanath government. Therefore, UPHESC found it appropriate to update the poet’s name too.

Name changed on UPHESC website

The Prayagraj-based UPHESC official website now states the updated name of the Urdu poet Akbar Allahabadi in the “About Allahabad” section. Referring to poets and writers who are from the city, the website reads:

Besides Hindi literature, Persian and Urdu literature are also studied in the city. Akbar Prayagraj is a noted modern Urdu poet…

The name change caused a stir on social media on Tuesday. Netizens went online to express severe criticism and critique.

Here’s how the Twitterati reacted to the name change:

A recurring incident of changing names

Akbar Allahabadi is not the only poet to have had his pen name changed. All other writers or poets who used “Allahabadi” as a suffix to their names have been renamed “Prayagraj” on the UPHESC website. These include:

  • Rashid Allahabadi > Rashid Prayagraj
  • Tegh Allahabadi > Tegh Prayagraj

Minister unaware of the changes; Historians angry

A media channel reached out to UP Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Dinesh Sharma for a comment on the name change. He said that he was not aware of the changes and that UPHESC was an autonomous body:

I will have to check with the officials at UPHESC about the name change; it’s an autonomous body.

Historians approached by media channels also criticized the UP government for the move. Heramb Chaturvedi, a professor at Allahabad University, said:

This was an act of disruption and showed pettiness. Fools should be forgiven. Changing pen names of famous poets shows that authorities have a skewed understanding of history.

BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who is also a professor of history at Allahabad University, tried to play it down and suggested:

It can be a manual error because one cannot change a person’s pen name like that.

About Akbar Allahabadi

Akbar Allahabadi is the most popular of the three poets whose names have been changed. Among his most well-known works is the ghazal “Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa”, which has often found its way into protest slogans across the country. Verses from his poetry have also found their way into the famous qawwali “Tum ik Gorakh Dhanda Ho” by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Akbar Allahabadi has also written many couplets and poems about peace and harmony between Hindus and Muslims; these are very popular among contemporary Urdu, Hindi poets, and lyricists. Critically acclaimed Hindi film Masaan’s songs also include poetry written by Akbar Allahabadi.

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