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That India’s ruling dispensation takes the symbolism of names seriously has long been clear. On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi named 21 unnamed islands of Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) after Param Vir Chakra awardees. The biggest such island will now be known after Major Somnath Sharma, the first awardee of that gallantry award; the second-largest after the second, and so on. Earlier, renamings of cities, roads, stadiums and other landmarks by the Bharatiya Janata Party had run into controversy, with the opposition accusing the ruling party of playing divisive politics. This time around, such protests seem unlikely. Since the exercise involved no removal of earlier names, there is no specific reason to object, and as Indian war heroes have been honoured, it would be churlish to argue that it should not have been done. The irony is that these references are only dots on our maps. Some of the A&N archipelago’s islands, North Sentinel being a famous example, are inhabited by tribals in complete isolation from the world who see our attempts at establishing contact as invasive. Our policy has been to stay off. That should continue.

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