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Friday, March 30, 2001

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Names and nationalism

Sir, - Kudos to Mr. Asgar Ali Engineer for his article ``Hindu Rashtra and Indian nationalism'' (March 24). There is no doubt that even if all the Indian Muslims and Christians take Indian names, the hate campaign of the upper caste Hindus against them will not stop. The reason for the assault is not their foreign names or cultures but the power the RSS wants to grab in the name of Hinduism.

Though I am a priest, my nephews and nieces carry names like Yogesh, Suresh, Nitin, Sachin, Swapnali and Swati. The rule in Roman Catholicism is to take the names of Catholic saints. But, in the spirit of inculturation I welcome this trend in my family. I have nieces with names like Oshin (Japanese) and Sabina (Islamic). Will the RSS chief, Mr. Sudarshan, object to them because they are non-Indian names? Now-a-days, in fact, it has become fashionable in all communities to give the names of the heroes of the day. Thus, many Hindus have Clintons and Dianas in their homes.

In Maharashtra, especially in Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar districts, all Christians proudly bear their original Indian surnames and even names. I do miss the original Indian surname that existed before my forefathers converted to Christianity. I could have known my family history from it. No one has bothered to keep that record in our Baptismal registers. In Goa, such a record had been maintained by the Portuguese and thus, some of the Goan Catholics have gone back to their original surnames like Velinkar.

Fr. Michael Gonsalves,

Bangalore

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