Banswara- What's in a name? More than just words, as evidenced by the rising dissent in Banswara over the proposed naming of 100 islands in the Maahi Backwater. Banswara Divisional Commissioner Niraj K. Pavan's proposal to rename the islets after Ramayana characters, in the wake of the Ram Mandir wave across the nation, has not been well-received by the tribal community. There is growing dissent in the area over the proposal. Pawan's initiatives to enhance tourism have drawn attention, particularly after a recent public meeting he conducted in the Chachakota area, seeking suggestions from the local community.
However, controversy has surfaced following the commissioner's recent social media post about the naming of these islands. Chorasi MLA Rajkumar Rot has taken a stand against Niraj's move, expressing opposition. Many people have come in support of the MLA's opposition.
In a social media post, the Divisional Commissioner mentioned that the nomenclature of the 100 islands in Banswara would be based on the forgotten characters from the Ramayana. In a post on X, the senior IAS officer wrote, " The naming of the 100 islands (islets) in Banswara will be done based on characters from the Ramayana. For centuries to come, these islands will be known by the names of characters from the Ramayana, ensuring that the epic continues to resonate between us." The administration has embarked on a task of notifying and enlisting all the islands in the backwater.
Political activist and Assistant Professor Jitendra Meena of Delhi University said that Bansia Bhil established Banswara and Bhils an indigenous community, have been integral to the settlement and development of the district. Presently, they constitute a significant majority, accounting for 77% of the population. Prof. Meena emphasized the enduring presence of tribal communities in this region, tracing back to a time long before the advent of Lord Ram or the Ramayana.
In this historical context, Professor Meena asserted that the naming of any part of Banswara should be entrusted to the indigenous tribal communities. Their longstanding connection to the land, predating even the legendary era of Ram, underscores the need for their voices to be paramount in decisions regarding the nomenclature of places within Banswara.
Kantibhai Roat, Founder member BAP said, "the history of Bhil Pradesh Banswara is associated with the tribal Bhil king, Bansia Sarpota. After the construction of Mahi Bajaj Sagar Dam on the Mahi River, thousands of tribal lands were lost, where islands have been formed. If renaming is undertaken, the islands will be named only after tribal ancestors, there are plenty of places across the country dedicated to the characters in Ramayana. There has been enough tampering with tribal history and such interference will not be tolerated. Tribal history is not to be compromised."
The commissioner's post has ignited discussions, with MLA Rajkumar Rot emphasizing that the government should respect the sentiments of the local population. He argued that if the islands are to be named, the decision should involve the public and elected representatives to determine the names that reflect the cultural and historical significance of Banswara. He said, "What appears as the beautiful Banswara today is a result of the sacrifices made by thousands of Adivasis who laid down their lives. If the islets are to be named, it should solely be in honour of these great figures." The statements from both sides indicate a potential clash between administrative decisions and grassroots opinions.
Since ancient times, Banswara has been a land inhabited by tribes. Around 1400 BC, the Bhils and Minas freely roamed and held dominion over this region. The establishment of the princely state of Banswara is credited to Jagmal Singh, who, after a victorious battle, defeated and dethroned the Bhil ruler Bansia or Wasna. The nomenclature of the Banswara district finds its roots in the abundant growth of 'bans' or bamboo trees that once adorned the landscape.
Nestled in the southern expanse of Rajasthan, Banswara is often referred to as the Cherrapunji of the state due to its status as the region receiving the highest rainfall. It also earns the moniker of the 'City of Hundred Islands' owing to the presence of numerous islands dotting the Mahi River at Chachakota. Recognized as the greenest city in Rajasthan, Banswara boasts lush environs, contributing to its reputation as a verdant oasis in the arid landscape of the state.