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THE cabinet, at its weekly meeting on December 14, agreed in principle to change the name of the country's main airport from Zia International Airport and rename it after the great saint Hazrat Shahjalal (RA). A decision also was made to rename those institutions and installations whose names were changed following the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujior Rahman in 1975.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who presided over the meeting, was requested by the Awami League General Secretary and LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam to change the name of Zia International Airport. The prime minister asked all present to propose the new name and the name of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) was approved.
The cabinet also endorsed a proposal to set up Barisal Science and Technology University. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her previous tenure in1996, had announced the setting up of Barisal University. But the BNP-led alliance government changed the name of the university to Ziaur Rahman College.
The legacy of renaming established institutions and installations was inherited from Pakistan. The Madan Mohan Basak road in old Dhaka was renamed Tipu Sultan road though Tipu Sultan had no contribution in that locality. Similarly, Nari Shikka Mondir was renamed Sherebangla Balika Bidyalaya and a girl's school Dipali as Quamrunnessa Government Girls' school. The list runs long.
A BNP affiliated VC of the National University moved to change the name of the university to Ziaur Rahman National University. But he could not succeed. The doctors of both AL and BNP had fought many battles when the AL government renamed PG Hospital as Bangabandhu Medical University.
To eternise his name, the autocrat Ershad named a stadium and a palli after his name. After Ershad's departure, Ershad Army Stadium was renamed Army Stadium. Chandrima Uddyan of Ershad was renamed as Zia Uddyan by the BNP-led alliance government. The park has been renamed Chandrima Uddyan by the present government.
BNP objected when AL named Jamuna Bridge after Bangabandhu. The Novo Theatre named after Bangabandhu was renamed as Bhasani Novo theatre by the BNP government. The Chittagong airport, which was renamed after local AL leader M.A. Hannan in recognition of his contribution to the liberation war, was changed to Shah Amanat airport by BNP.
AL renamed the Dhanmondi Mahila complex after Sultana Kamal, the wife of slain Sheikh Kamal, and Khaleda Zia Medical College as Suhrawardi Medical College. It renamed the Institute of Post Graduate Studies in Agriculture at Gazipur as Bangabandhu Agricultural University in 1996.
Recently, the government has renamed the Bangladesh-China Friendship Convention Centre as the Bangabandhu Convention Centre. Has it contributed to the sky-high image of Bangabandhu? It is quite all right that the government has decided to name the proposed second international airport in Dhaka as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Airport. Nobody will oppose it. But conscious people may oppose the changing of the name of Zia International Airport.
Both Bangabandhu and Ziaur Rahman are well placed in our history as national leaders. Their positions in history cannot be changed by renaming and de-naming the existing institutions and installations. Bangabandhu named the finest part of the capital as Sherebangla Nagar, the historic park of the country as Suhrawardi Uddyan and the largest avenue of the capital as Manik Mia Avenue.
BJP is the arch political rival of Congress in India. But BJP never tried to change the name of Jawaharlal Nehru University or Indira Ghandi Airport when it was in power. Such instances are galore all over the world and Bangladesh is the only exception.
The Kurmitola International Airport, which started operating in 1980, was renamed Zia International Airport after slain president Ziaur Rahman in 1983. Changing the name of Zia International Airport will have international implication as more than 16 international airlines use this airport, which handles half a million passengers and 98,000 million tons of cargo annually.
There is really no rationale behind the intention of the government for changing the name of the country's main airport. The removal of Zia's murals from the Bangabandhu National Stadium has already brought criticism for the government for its narrow political psyche.
It is not at all acceptable that the name of Zia International Airport, which has already achieved an international identity as the gateway to Bangladesh for nearly three decades, will be changed at the whim of individuals. If the government does not desist from changing the name of Zia International Airport, it will not only denigrate its own image but also the nation's.
The nation has already paid a heavy price because of political confrontation between the two major political parties -- AL and the BNP. The government has instigated the opposition for political movement on the issue of changing the name of Zia International Airport. Therefore the nasty politics of renaming must be put to an end, once and for all.
A. N. M. Nurul Haque is a columnist of The Daily Star.