Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

How Gurgaon became Gurugram

Parminder Kataria, BJP leader and deputy mayor of the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, struggled for almost 10 years to get the name changed

In the end, it was all about honour.

The Haryana government sprang a surprise on the residents of Gurgaon and the rest of India on Wednesday, when it decided to rename the glitzy city Gurugram. But for one man, this was Mission Accomplished. The end of a 10-year struggle for Parminder Kataria, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician and deputy mayor of the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation.

It was Kataria who moved a resolution in the corporation on 6 August, 2014, proposing the name change. “I’ve worked for almost 10 years to see this day," Kataria said. Initially, progress was slow. “We went from colony to colony, explaining to people the rationale behind the name," said Kataria, Most residents, Kataria claimed, were receptive once they understood the history behind the name. There was some resistance, he admits. “Some said we should instead focus on issues like sewage and water, but I told them it’s important to focus not just on kaam [work] but also naam [name]."

What made him embark on this mission? “As a child, I’d hear my grandfather use the word Gurugram while narrating to us the history of the place. Also, I went to the local shakha of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, where it was always referred to as Gurugram." According to the Hindustan Times, the Gurgaon unit of RSS — the ideological parent of the BJP — has been using Gurugram in its address for a long time.

In the same year that he got the corporation to pass the name change resolution, Kataria was booked by the Gurgaon police after a woman complained that he raped her on promise of marriage and getting her a job. The woman, who wrote to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar; later said she was threatened by Kataria to withdraw the charges. He was not convicted in the case.

In its official notification on Wednesday, the Haryana state government said the district “derived its name from the name of Guru Dronacharya; the village was given as gurudakshina to him by his students the Pandavas, and hence it came to be known as Guru-gram, which in course of time got distorted to Gurgaon". According to the Mahabharat, it was Dronacharya who trained the Pandava princes in warfare.

In early 2014, Kataria launched an organisation called Gurugram Gaurav, dedicated exclusively to the objective of changing the name of Gurgaon. It comprised almost entirely of Kataria’s old friends from Gurgaon’s RSS unit. “We were a set of like-minded people who had come together for a common cause," explained Kataria.

Shortly after the launch, a resolution was passed in the 35-member Gurgaon Municipal Corporation. While Kataria claimed it was unanimously passed by the corporation, the Aam Aadmi Party’s councillor Nisha Singh contended that wasn’t the case. “There was no show of hands and it was all very arbitrary and unilateral," she told Mint.

Kataria strongly denied Singh’s accusation. “We had the support of the residents and all other stakeholders – who wanted Gurgaon’s legacy to be restored."

According to R.K. Gupta of the Federation of Apartment Owners Association, (FAOA) Gurgaon, the FAOA had never even discussed the issue in any of its meetings. “It came as a total surprise to us," he said.

The resolution, though, was only a step forward; there was much work left. After the resolution was passed, a signature campaign was organised by Gurugram Gaurav, which according to Kataria, garnered “thousands of signatures".

Later, Surender Pal, who played Dronacharya in the TV show Maharabharat, was invited to address people. Even BJP MP Sakshi Mahararaj, Kataria claimed, came to the city to endorse the change in name. “There was overwhelming public support in favour of the move," said Kataria.

Gurgaon deputy commisioner TL Styaparakash said that it was “a cabinet decision". “The government seems to have referred to the gazetteer where there is a mention of the Dronacharya story," he said.

Responding to a query about concerns from certain quarters that the name change will lead to a sizable dent in the state exchequer, Kataria said this was about honour; not money.

His task to restore honour may be complete, though a final decision has to come from the Union home ministry. Until then, Gurugram continues to be Gurgaon.

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