Online clamour to name Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road after Kalam

None of New Delhi roads is so weighed down with history as the wide and leafy Aurangzeb Road in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi.

Flanked by other greats from history, the nearly 1.5-km stretch named after the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb has been an eyesore for some leaders of the ruling BJP.

Several other right-wing groups, and members from Sikh religious groups, are in tow, demanding the name to be erased once for all. With the death of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the campaigners have resurfaced, seeking Aurangzeb Road to be renamed as A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Marg.

Two months ago, the New Delhi Municipal Council, which looks after the upkeep of this very exclusive zone described as a billionaires’ den, had reported on how roads bearing Muslim names had been defaced by unknown persons.

On Wednesday, as WhatsApp messages and Twitter handles suggested renaming the road after the ‘People’s President’ Abdul Kalam, coming a day after his death, there were many who saw the aggressive suggestion as an attempt to polarise communities.

'Name a new creation in Kalam’s area of expertise’

Many saw the online campaign to rename Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road after Kalam as an attempt to divide the communities on the now familiar lines of the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim: Kalam, the secular Muslim, and Aurangzeb, the polarising ruler, and no prizes for guessing who would emerge winner in the communally charged debate that went beyond the long road.

Urban Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu had stirred a storm when he wondered aloud whether Delhi could have benefited from being renamed Hastinapur or Indraprastha.

The former Governor of West Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi said: “Renaming roads is the tribute of inertia to opportunism. President Kalam’s memory should not be given the stale homage of an old road named anew but a new creation in fields where he was the undoubted pioneer.”

For the BJP-led NDA government which prefers to condemn large swathes of history, because they are inconvenient to the ideological position of the party, the Aurangzeb road falls in the category of history best forgotten.

The Twitter handles, proclaimed “Let us name Aurangzeb Road APJ Kalam Marg, as Aurangzeb was ruthless ruler.”

Disapproving of any changes in nomenclature, historian Narayani Gupta who has authored books on Delhi’s monuments and history, said: “Aurangzeb bothers a lot of people. Ultimately it comes down to the appalling way we teach history in terms of good and bad kings. It shows a lack of imagination, a lack of a sense of history, a smallness of mind.”

Last year, the Delhi unit of the BJP had requested for a name change, which was turned down by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary had informed Parliament that the State unit of the BJP wanted Aurangzeb Road to be renamed Guru Gobind Singh Road. The municipal body received another correspondence from the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) in this regard. A petition on Change.Org by the DSGMC has even petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider renaming the road after Guru Tegh Bahadur.

Said Manjit Singh, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal: “We had requested the NDMC to change it to Guru Tegh Bahadur who had laid down his life to protect Hindus, but our request was turned down. We respect Kalam saab who was a good people’s president. But we submit to authorities to name some other road or a project after Kalam Saab, not this road.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 4:47:45 AM |

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