In December of 2015, about 70 students from Class 7 and Class 8 at a government middle school in Fatehabad district, Haryana, wrote letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most of them mentioned the fact that their village’s name—“Ganda,” which means “dirty” in Hindi—made life extremely difficult for them and their neighbours. “Wherever we go, people insult us. They crack jokes on us,” read one of the letters, by a girl named Harpreet Kaur, who was 13 years old at the time. “We feel ashamed to say the name of our village.”
Several months later, in May of 2016, Pradeep Singh, one of the students who had written to Modi, received a response from the prime minister’s office, informing him that his letter had been forwarded to the office of the deputy commissioner of Fatehabad. The village is still officially called Ganda, but, in January this year, the state of Haryana approved a proposed name change and forwarded the matter to the union ministry of home affairs for its final approval. The villagers want the place to be called Ajit Nagar, after one of the Sikh gurus, as Sikhism is the dominant faith there.
This March, I visited the village. I found that the campaign to rename the place has been going on for at least three decades, and that, while Modi’s response to Pradeep’s letter was cause for optimism among many people from there, the proposed rechristening is still in limbo.