Mumbai now has the distinction of having the first-ever junction in the city to be renamed after an international leader. A junction between Kala Ghoda Chowk and Sai Baba Marg in south Mumbai has been named ‘Shimon Pares Chowk’, in honour of the former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shimon Peres. This move of the BMC has come despite the proposal having been roundly opposed twice by its group leaders two years ago.
The junction is located beside the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue at VB Gandhi Marg. Earlier, it had no name, but recently, the Mumbai civic body has put up a signboard which reads ‘Shimon Pares Chowk’. Clearly, the typographical error in the name of the foreign honoree is far from a sticking point.
Currently, there are a few Jewish families residing in the area who often visit the synagogue which was established in 1884 and is one of the oldest religious places in the city. Earlier, a significant percentage of Baghdadi Jews resided in this area.
According to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, only the local corporator has the official right to propose the name for any junction or street in their area. In this case, the local Shiv Sena corporator of south Mumbai, Sujata Sanap, says she had not moved any application to rename the junction.
“I have not floated any proposal to rename the junction. As far as I know, the instruction to rename the place came from the office of former Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi,” Sanap told The Free Press Journal.
The proposal to rename the chowk had been tabled for the first time at a meeting of group leaders in 2018 at the BMC. A heated argument had then ensued amongst the leaders, following which the then city mayor, Vishwanath Mahadeshwar had withheld the proposal, neither accepting nor rejecting it. Soon after this, the proposal was again tabled during the ward committee meeting, only to be rejected again by the members of the committee.
Ravi Raja, senior Congress corporator and Leader of Opposition in the BMC and Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA and group leader of the party in the BMC had opposed the proposal, saying it was unfair to rename a prominent location in the city after someone who has barely made any contribution to the state.
On Friday, Shaikh said that the road had been renamed without consulting the group leaders of the party.
“We have no idea who gave the permission to rename it, we only discovered the new nameplate recently and learnt it had been set up sometime in last December,” Shaikh told The FPJ.
Shaikh has written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, urging the state to immediately take down the nameplate or else, his party will call for a statewide agitation.
“Mr Peres has made no contribution towards the socio-economic and cultural outlook of Maharashtra, so how is it appropriate to rename a junction after him?” Shaikh asked.
“I have asked for the papers that authorised this move,” Raja told The FPJ.
Meanwhile, Makarand Narwekar, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator, said he had initiated the proposal as chairperson of the south Mumbai Ward committee.
“In Israel there are roads and junctions named after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, so I don't see any problem in renaming a junction after a former president who is also a Nobel laureate,” he said.
Senior officials of the civic body maintain that the renaming procedure was done keeping in mind all the formalities.
“We have taken the necessary permissions and have also informed the municipal commissioner’s office before erecting the new nameplate,” said a senior civic official on condition of anonymity.