CM’s endorsement of renaming Aurangzeb Road triggers debate

Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi. Photo: R. V. Moorthy  

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's endorsement of renaming Aurangzeb Road after Dr A.P.J. Kalam has opened up a debate within Delhi’s political spectrum.

Political experts and commentators said Mr Kejriwal’s tweet in which he welcomed the erasing Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's name from a road in Lutyens Delhi was “wrong and disturbing” especially as the Delhi Chief Minister has maintained a Muslim-friendly image.

Political Science Professor PK Dutta said the “fundamental innovation” in the renaming of the road was “illegitimate.” “Muslim rule has been an integral part of our past. We don’t accept British colonial rule but anything before it is Indian culture. The Hindutva forces are meddling with the Islamic past of India.”

Mr Kejirwal’s office did not respond when asked for a reaction. However, a close aide said people were reading too much into the renaming of the road. “He (Kejriwal) tweeted because he was present at the meeting. It’s not that someone’s name has been struck off or any other agenda is being fulfilled.”

Even within the party there is a difference of opinion. “As there is no one to defend Aurangzeb, it was changed,” said Delhi Cantonment MLA, Surinder Singh, also a member of New Delhi Municipal Council. “We were in favour of renaming roads such as Shanti Path or Park Street. But then the council members said Aurangzeb Road is a main thoroughfare.”

Mr Singh was present at the meeting when the decision was taken. “If any other road had been renamed after a political leader or freedom fighter, political parties would’ve protested.”

Another MLA, Amanatullah from Okhla, said: “We aren’t against Mr Kalam but the reason behind renaming isn’t right. The BJP has been trying to erase Aurangzeb from our past because he was a ‘kattar Musalman’ (staunch Muslim). Now, if we openly object, it will be seen as unpatriotic,” he said. But others in the party differ. An AAP leader said though Aurangzeb was a prominent Mughal emperor, he was an oppressor. “Why should people object to it when it is being renamed after a ‘patriotic people’s President’?”

The debate over changing the name of Aurangzeb Road isn’t new. Soon after winning the Lok Sabha elections last year, BJP MPs from Delhi had wanted it to be renamed Guru Gobind Singh Road or Dara Shikoh Road. Their proposal, however, was turned down.

“It’s a very deliberate move,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA). “They want to send a message to the Muslim community that we are dividing you into good and bad (Muslims).”

Accusing the AAP of playing the soft Hindutva card, she said the demonising of Aurangzeb was wrong. “Why do we have a street named after KB Hedgewar, who didn’t believe in secular India, the tricolour and freedom of religion? Even that should be renamed.”

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 12:23:40 AM |

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