By Our Correspondent


A rose is a rose is a rose” is among the most famous quotations meaning “things are what they are”. Hindu Gods and Goddesses appear in the form of animals and keep them too. But when a pair of Lioness named “Sita” and Lion named “Akber” arrived in Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park in Darjeeling all hell broke loose. The hyperactive BJP Government in Tripura has even suspended the Principal Conservator of Forest, a senior 1994 batch IFS officer following the gaffe. The state Government apparently had no knowledge of the ticklish issues till date!

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad had filed a case in the Jalpaiguri bench of the Calcutta High court against the zoo authorities for naming the animals and keeping them with partners bearing objectionable manner. It hurts religion sentiments since Sita is a revered deity of Hindus and Akbar a Moghul Samrat but was a Muslim though secular. blasphemous and an assault on the community’s religious beliefs, VHP felt. The West Bengal government informed the court that the naming of the two lions was done by the Tripura Zoo authorities in 2016 and 2018 before their recent transfer to the Bengal Safari Park. The issue over their names only cropped up once the lions arrived in West Bengal.

The single-judge bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharya said Sita is worshipped by a large section of people in the country and Akbar was a “secular Mughal Emperor”. “Mr Counsel, will you yourself name your own pet after some Hindu God or Muslim Prophet ... I think, if any one of us would have been the authority, none of us would have named them as Akbar and Sita. Can anyone of us think of naming an animal after Rabindranath Tagore? Sita is worshipped by a larger section of this country ... I also oppose naming the lion after Akbar. He was an efficient, successful and secular Mughal Emperor,” the judge said.

The VHP, which is linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, says the beasts were given their names by the government of West Bengal state, which is run by the opposition Trinamool Congress. The complaint to the court, written by VHP’s West Bengal secretary Lakshman Bansal threatened protests if officials refused to change the name and the location of the lions. “Sita and Akbar cannot be allowed to live together,” Bansal said. Documents related to the case have been provided to the court and the park will abide with the court’s decision.

In recent years, the BJP governments have changed several Muslim and British colonial names of roads, cities and public spaces in what they say is a campaign to revive ancient Indian history. Incidentally, Padmaja Naidu, daughter of famous Sarojini Naidu was herself an Indian freedom fighter and politician who was the 4th Governor of West Bengal. A staunch secularist, she co- founded the Congress party in Nizam ruled Hyderabad. Incidentally, High Courts have not changed their names.

The High Court finally asked the West Bengal government to rename the lion named ‘Akbar’ and the lioness named ‘Sita’ which should put an end to the controversy. But the bigger question rises how to identify animals in the zoos unless they are given specific names and from where to find names if not persons. 

Source: Himalayan News Chronicle