The shameful act by some fundamentalists of blackening out road signages bearing Muslim names in the national capital is highly deplorable. The miscreants are believed to have smeared black paint on the signs on Akbar Road, Aurangzeb Road, Safdar Hashmi Marg and Feroze Shah Road. Obviously those behind this act of vandalism want to wish away our historical past and seem to forget that before India attainted Independence as a democratic nation, it was virtually under 800 years of rule by foreign conquerors. No country in the world can either rewrite its past or tamper with history. The leftist historians have made attempts at distorting certain events or playing down certain acts of prominent figures. The rightists are no different. They want to have their interpretation of history, however irrational it may sound to make it look like the real truth and nothing else but the truth.
Successive Congress governments at the Centre have played around with history as well, something which is evident from the manner in which virtually every street in Lutyens’ Delhi in particular has been given a new name by replacing the original ones which were of British rulers of the country. For thoroughbred Delhiites (they are in a minority, as the city has been taken over by migrants), Curzon Road can never be Kasturba Gandhi Marg and Irwin Road can never be Baba Kharak Singh Marg in the same way as Willingdon Crescent cannot be referred to as Mother Teresa Crescent, or it is difficult to call Kingsway Camp, Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar. Similarly, Irwin Hospital and Willingdon Hospitals are deeply etched in the minds and there is indeed difficulty in calling them by their changed names — Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospital and Ram Manohar Lohia hospital respectively.
The biggest blasphemy, as one would like to call it, was when the Centre decided to rename Connaught Place as Indira Chowk and Rajiv Chowk. For anyone who has lived in the capital, CP as Connaught Place has been referred to over the years is actually the heart of the city. Everyone has his or her share of experiences here and no amount of persuasion by the government can compel anyone to call it by any other name but its original one. The Delhi Metro has made a very determined effort by referring to CP as Rajiv Chowk, but it has not made people to alter their thinking by describing the landmark by its new name thrust by government authorities.
One finds no reason why new names cannot be given to new places which get created in the expanding metropolis like Delhi and its adjoining National Capital Region that covers townships like Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and NOIDA. In any country, there are heroes in every generation and some thought can be put in naming things in their memory. But why erase one’s past? It should serve to tell us that we were governed by foreigners and in order to remain independent, we must remain vigilant and strong. Akbar Allahabadi, the famous revolutionary poet had written, “Mujhe nafrat nahin this Angrez ki soorat se, agar nafrat thi to thi uski andaze hukumat se (I did not have any hatred for the British rulers but the hatred was directed against the manner in which they ruled)”. The late Raj Narain added his two lines to it and said, “Jab apno ki hukumat gavara ho na saki, to apno ki soorat se bhi mohabbat ho na saki (When our own failed to rule in a just manner, it was logical that one could not have them close to one’s own heart).”
Delhi is one of the most ancient capitals of the world. It has history written all over. If there is Qutab Minar, Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb, there is also the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Parliament House, India Gate and the elegance of Lutyens’ Delhi. There are also Ashoka pillars and some ancient Hindu structures and temples. Each of the rulers during their tenures left behind something for the posterity. It is nobody’s case that the rulers did not commit atrocities on the citizens, but at the same time, no one can take the clock of time back beyond centuries of slavery and foreign rule.
Smearing signages with black paint does not alter things. Replacing British names with Mughal or other names does not serve any purpose either. And by replacing roads named after Muslim kings and others shall also add to the confusion further. Our naming policies have always been arbitrary. There are roads named after people whose contribution to public life was nothing as compared to say some former Prime Ministers of this country. Similarly, one would have liked to see a sports stadium named after someone like Milkha Singh but the thought was never given any shape. There is a lot in a name and most important there is history associated with each name. Between us.