Amol Rajan
Editor of the Independent, Amol Rajan, has made a controversial decision to refer to India's financial capital as Bombay instead of Mumbai Getty

The editor of Britain's Independent newspaper has angered critics for saying that the daily will begin using Bombay instead of Mumbai when referring to the Indian city. British-Indian Amol Rajan kicked up a social media storm on 10 February after making the announcement, with thousands taking offence that the newspaper would be referring to Mumbai by the name given to it by Portuguese and British colonisers.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4, Rajan said that his decision to refer to India's financial capital as Bombay was a stand against "Hindu nationalists", who he accused of being "closed to the world". He accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena of creating a "nationalist" tradition in the country and said that calling the city Mumbai would be falling into the hands of the Hindu nationalists.

"The whole point of Bombay is an open, cosmopolitan port city, the gateway of India that's open to the world," Rajan told BBC Radio 4. "There's been a nastier, slightly more provincial, nationalist, closed to the world tradition [in India], which is occupied by the BJP and Shiv Sena. I think in choosing Bombay over Mumbai, what I'm trying to do at The Independent is to say that India's better tradition is one that's open to the world."

The name Bombay was given to the city by Portuguese colonisers in 1534, after which the city was handed over to the East India Company under British rule. Following independence from the British and the partition of India, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena won elections in the state of Maharashtra and changed the city's name to Mumbai after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi. However, Mumbai's residents had been calling the city by it's Hindu name for years before the official change took place.

A number of other names of Indian cities were changed after the country gained independence, with local governments choosing to revert to names that were of Indian-origin, rather than those given to the country by colonisers. Calcutta became Kolkata and Bangalore was changed to Bengaluru.

Rajan said: "If you choose the word Mumbai instead of Bombay, you collude with the nationalists in closing Bombay off to the world and that's a very bad thing to do."

Thousands have reacted angrily to The Independent's decision to refer to Mumbai as Bombay and many have accused Rajan of playing into the hands of colonial rulers in India. Notable figures, including the famous writer Amish Tripathi and journalist Harsha Bhogle, are among those to criticise Rajan's decision. However, The Independent editor told the BBC that his decision had been largely supported by staff at his newspaper and that he hoped the readers would agree with it as well. He indicated that he would be explaining his decision in a letter to readers on 13 February.