Freedom icon’s name becomes subject of dispute in India

Many in Bihar were surprised when the state government posted a greeting message adding “Ramji” in the middle of Ambedkar’s name

Patna: As India observed the 127th birth anniversary of Dalit icon Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Bihar, headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar, sought to include “Ramji” in the middle of his name, triggering controversy.

Known as the “Father of the Constitution of India”, Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, economist and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist Movement.

‘Ram’ is the name of a Hindu deity.

Many people in Bihar were surprised when the state government posted a greeting message on the official website of the Information and Public Relations Department on Saturday adding “Ramji” in the middle of Ambedkar’s name.

The development comes barely a month after Yogi Adityanath-led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh added “Ramji” in the middle of Ambedkar’s name, annoying many.

Authorities in Bihar however hurriedly removed the message after the post went viral in the social media.

The campaign to write Ambedkar’s name “correctly” was initiated by Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik in December last year.

Last month, a ruling senior Janata Dal United (JD-U) leader Shyam Rajak had strongly objected to the UP government’s move to add “Ramji” in the middle of Ambedkar name, describing it as sheer mischief.

“This is a great conspiracy aimed at diverting the Dalit’s attention from the real issues,” was how Rajak had said, reacting to UP government’s decision.

“We have no problem with renaming Ambedkar saheb whose full name was Dr Bhim Rao Ramjii Sakpal Ambedkar but same should be done with others too,” asked Rajak.

According to him, the full name of India’s Prime Minister is “Narendra Bhai Damodar Bhai Modi” while the real name of UP chief minister Adityanath is “Thakur Ajit Singh Bist”.

“Why are they then not writing their real names in official records?” asked Rajak, a leader from Dalit community.

Another Dalit leader and federal minister Ram Vilas Paswan, though, welcomed the move, in sharp contrast to JDU counterpart.

“It’s a welcome move. Official records show that Babasaheb had signed his name on the page of the Constitution of Indian as ‘Dr Bhimrao Ramji Aambedkar. Those opposing or criticising this need to read more about him and know their history before making it an issue,” Paswan told journalists.

Paswan heads the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) which is a constituent of the NDA.

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