Hitler, Frankenstein contest local Indian polls

Shillong:  Politicians named after Adolf Hitler and Frankenstein are among 345 candidates competing in elections this week in Meghalaya which has a history of bizarre naming conventions.

Keeping them company when the hilly state of Meghalaya goes to the polls on Saturday are others called Bombersingh, Boldness Billykid, Predecessor and Process.

Hopingstone Lyngdoh, Hilarious Pochen and Hopeful Bamon will also try their luck at nabbing one of the 60 seats up for grabs in the state legislative assembly.

The unusual names chosen in Meghalaya are among the most striking legacies of colonial rule, when many Britons frequented state capital Shillong, preferring its temperate climate to the searing heat of the rest of India.

Shillong became known as the "Scotland of the East" and a steady stream of foreign missionaries and soldiers saw Christianity flourish and the English language trickle in.

Today, English is spoken in the state, but not always fluently.

Historians say the once-close ties with England have seen many people name their children using random English words or famous names from the past, often with no knowledge of what they might mean.

"Often they don't know the background of the names. They get attracted to these names for their quest of modernity," Sanjeeb Kakoty, a history professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong told AFP.

The stocky, balding politician Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak said his parents did not know the background to his controversial name and insisted that apart from his moustache, he had nothing in common with the Nazi dictator.

"Maybe my parents liked the name. But I am not a dictator," he told AFP. A member of the Nationalist Congress Party, Hitler-Marak is contesting the elections from the constituency of Bajengdoba in west Meghalaya.

In the past, Indian shops and restaurants named after Hitler have been forced to change their names after facing protests.

Hitler-Marak has never run into any trouble, however, having even served once as forestry minister -- an acknowledgement perhaps by the state's 2.9 million citizens that a strange, even scandalous, name is still just a name.

"Parents may christen their children funny names, but as long as the candidates perform their duties, we have no problem," an imaginatively titled trader, Class One, told AFP. "What's in a name?" he asked.

Election results will be announced on February 28.
Story First Published: February 19, 2013 17:58 IST

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