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india today insightKerala, the southern state of predominantly Malayalam-speaking people, was born on November 1, 1956 by uniting the former kingdom of Travancore-Kochi, Malabar district and Kasargod taluk. The name was first mentioned (as Keralaputra) in a 3rd century BC rock inscription by the Mauryan emperor Asoka. According to Hindu mythology, the Kerala land mass was retrieved from sea by Parasurama, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu.

On August 9, 67 years after the state was formed, the Kerala assembly unanimously adopted a resolution appealing to the Union government to rename the state as ‘Keralam’. The resolution was moved by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who said the state was anyway called ‘Keralam’ in Malayalam, and that the need to form a united Kerala for Malayalam-speaking communities had been strongly felt since the Indian freedom struggle.

Pinarayi also pointed out that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala, led by V.S. Achuthanandan, had in 2010 decided to change the state’s name to ‘Keralam’, but this couldn’t be executed as it needed a constitutional amendment.

Analysts say that for the LDF, it’s politically significant to go for the name change since the state government insists on Malayalam as the language for official communication. Chief Secretary V. Venu, on July 4, issued a directive that all government orders be issued in Malayalam and only communication to the Union government and other states be in English. Now, even Kerala cabinet notes are recorded in the official language.

Kerala won’t be the first state attempting a name change. In 2011, Orissa officially became Odisha through a constitutional amendment, and remains the last case of a state’s name change in India. At the time, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been keen on changing her state’s name and has sent several proposals, including ‘Paschim Banga’ and ‘Bangla’, to the Centre. The requests were turned down.

Kerala assembly speaker A.N Shamseer says the wait is now for the Union government to respond to the name change demand. “I feel the Centre shouldhonour our request to change the state’s name to Keralam and rectify the error in the Constitution as the legislative assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution to the effect,” Shamseer told INDIA TODAY.

But with a BJP-led government at the Centre and the Left in power in Kerala, securing ‘Keralam’ could be a tricky affair. As CPI(M) state secretary M.V. Govindan Master said: “The Modi government has been trying to thwart the state’s development due to political antipathy. But we are committed to pursue our goals and fight negative attitudes against democratically elected governments by exposing anti-Kerala agendas.”

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Edited By:

Arindam Mukherjee

Published On:

Aug 12, 2023

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