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Aurangzeb Road renamed, Akbar and Shah Jahan are next: Irfan Habib 

Prof Irfan Habib

Prof Irfan Habib

The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has decided to change the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the corporation, was the first one to announce this development through his twitter handle on 28 August.

Eminent historian, Irfan Habib, an authority on medieval Indian history, spoke to Catch on the renaming of Aurangzeb Road.

CK: How do you respond to the renaming of Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road?
IH: It’s foolish, unfortunate and blatantly communal. I understand Aurangzeb might not be a very attractive ruler for some but Aurangzeb Road had become a historical address. Why should it be changed?

CK: East Delhi MP Mahesh Girri has cited Aurangzeb’s much maligned image as the reason.

IH: That way, if you start examining, you will find problems with every ruler in ancient and medieval India. For instance, how many rulers opposed caste? But does anybody ever demand removal of their names from public places?

Renaming is an old project of the BJP and RSS. They wanted to rename Lucknow, Allahabad and Ahmedabad as well

Bhagwan Das and Man Singh had fought Rana Pratap who is such an icon for many. But roads in Delhi carry their names as well. Will these be erased too?

CK: The supporters of this move also say that this was necessary to honour the contributions of former president APJ Abdul Kalam to the nation.

IH: This is a very odd way of honouring APJ Abdul Kalam. If we have to honour him, why not build something new in his memory and dedicate it to him? Why associate his name with something old?

CK: Why do you call this move communal?

IH: Well, a few months ago, signages on some roads in Delhi were also blackened. Even though that might have nothing to do with this, this renaming business is an old project of the BJP and RSS.

CK: Do you remember any previous instances?

IH: Well, in 1992, when I was president of Indian Council of Historical Research, the 450th birth anniversary of Akbar was being observed. BJP and RSS had opposed these celebrations. LK Advani and others said Akbar was a Pakistani, among other things, and he should not be celebrated. In textbooks under NDA, Akbar was not praised, Mughal architecture was not praised.

CK: Any instances of attempts to rename places?

IH: Long ago, Rajnath Singh wanted Allahabad to be renamed. Even earlier, KM Munshi wanted Ahmedabad to be renamed. Some time in the 1990s, possible during the NDA government, BJP-RSS also wanted Lucknow to be named as Laxmanpuri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee refused to do this, saying he was elected from Lucknow and that is how it will stay.

CK: What is the objective behind these attempts?

IH: Well, I am not privy to their objectives but I think they feel they will gain by raising these issues again and again. Which is what makes me feel that this will not stop with Aurangzeb Road. Akbar and Shah Jahan are probably also in the list.

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