After Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath renamed famous cities of Uttar Pradesh and indicated that similar changes for other places are in the offing, his party leaders have not only lauded the move, but have also pressed for rechristening of cities such as Muzaffarnagar saying it was named by someone called "Nawab Muzaffar Ali". However, the UP government records say otherwise.
The Mughal Sarai railway station is now called Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhayay junction on the UP government's recommendation, while Allahabad has become Prayagraj and Ayodhya has been changed to Faizabad. "Where there is a need, the government will take the steps required," Yogi Adityanath has promised.
Controversial BJP lawmaker from Sardhana, Sangeet Som now wants the name of Muzaffarnagar to be changed to Laxmi Nagar.
"The BJP is trying to bring back the culture of India, which was deliberately changed by the Muslim rulers to end Hindutva. Therefore, the BJP is working to safeguard and retain the Indian culture by restoring their original names," Mr Som told news agency ANI.
Mr Som also said that Muzaffarnagar was named by "Nawab Muzaffar Ali". The claim, however, has been debunked by at least two UP government sources.
The district gazetteer for Muzaffarnagar, published by the UP government in 1990, states, "The district is named after its headquarters town, Muzaffarnagar, which was founded during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan at the site of an old town called Darot or Sarwat. Abdul Muzaffar Khan, a minister of the emperor, received 40 villages in parganas (a group of villages) Khatauli and Sarwat as jagir, along with the title Khanjahan Shah-Jahani from the emperor. It was, however, completed by his son Abdul Mansur Khan and named Muzaffarnagar after his late father."
The information is backed by the Muzaffarnagar district administration's website, which despite certain inconsistencies in names doesn't really complement Mr Som's claim.
It says, "In pages of history and revenue records, Sarwat was known as pargana which was given as jagir to one of the chieftains named Saiyed Muzaffarkhan by emperor Shah Jahan. He founded the city of Un-Divided Muzaffarnagar in 1633 with lands of Khera and Sujru. His project was completed by his son Munawar Lashkar Khan who in turn named the city after his father Muzaffar Khan."
Historian S Irfan Habib has criticised the BJP leader's demand to change Muzaffarnagar's name terming it as "blatantly communal".
"Now the demand to change the name of Muzaffarnagar to Laxmi nagar is blatantly a communal demand. No one changed the name before, it was established in 1633 by Syed Muzaffar Khan, a noble in Shahjahan' time. And the demand is being made Sangeet Som, accused in the riots," Mr Habib tweeted.
He added that Sarwat is a village near Muzaffarnagar even now. "It has nothing to do with the naming of the city. It is totally misleading. I belong to that city."
In the case of Agra, famous for the magnificent Taj Mahal, Agra North lawmaker Jagan Prasad Garg said that the city should be renamed as Agravan or Agrawal.
"Agra has no meaning. You check the name Agra anywhere, what relevance does it have? Earlier, there used to be a lot of forests here. And people from the Agarwal community used to live here. So the name should be Agravan or Agrawal," Mr Garg said.
However, Agra's district website states, "It is generally accepted that Agra was both an ancient city from the times of the Mahabharata and yet nevertheless Sultan Sikandar Lodi, the Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, founded Agra in the year 1504. After the Sultan's death, the city passed on to his son, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. He ruled his Sultanate from Agra until he fell fighting to Mughal Badshah (emperor) Babar in the First battle of Panipat fought in 1526."
But not everybody is impressed with the UP government's renaming spree. Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief and Uttar Pradesh minister Om Prakash Rajbhar said that these decisions are being taken only to divert attention from the needs of oppressed sections of society. He also asked the party to first change the names of its own Muslim leaders.
Shiv Sena, the BJP's ally in Maharashtra, said that renaming cities in Uttar Pradesh was nothing but a "lollipop" to woo voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year.