‘Renaming Mughal Gardens Has A Communal Perspective’
Ahmer Khan, a heritage tour leader in Delhi, says changing names of the historical monuments and places goes against constitutional values. His views:
Changing the name of a place or structure is actually rejecting the entire heritage of a particular era of the past. It has multi-dimensional impact; it affects the collective memory of people at many levels. Renaming our recorded heritages, as in the case of Mughal Gardens lately, bears an absurd reasoning where destroying the symbols of a troubled past is seen as course correction.
The culture and traditions of a society develop over a time frame; from clothing to speech and architecture, these are all part of the same heritage. Condemning them pushes an entire community into a sense of guilt for a culture that is part of their identity. It puts a stain on their culture.
Take for example the intent behind the demand of setting up a Renaming Commission through a PIL in the Supreme Court. The PIL noted that while Mughal Garden was renamed as Amrit Udyan, the government had done nothing to rename the roads named after invaders. Mercifully, the honourable court dismissed the petition, stating that India cannot be a prisoner of the past. This exactly my argument is all about.
The role of an ideal state is to preserve our cultural heritage. An example of this can be seen in Indonesia, where despite being a Muslim-majority nation, it has embraced its Hindu symbols and temples as part of their culture and heritage. Spain can be another example where they have preserved their Muslim heritage despite being a Christian majority nation. If Indonesia and Spain can preserve their heritage, why can’t India?
An argument of decolonisation is often used in defence of changing names. Decolonizing is necessary, but it must be done with honesty at every level. This requires institutions to become more welfare-oriented and not exploitative as was the norm in colonial phase. When the last person in the line is empowered and perceives to be empowered, then only will decolonization be implemented in its true sense.
Has Connaught Place really been decolonized by being renamed Rajiv Chowk? Has the character of the oppressive power changed there? You will find out that even after working in a shop for more than ten years, its employees cannot afford to buy anything for themselves from that shop; nor can they ever eat in the restaurant where they cook or serve food for years. You will find children and women begging at Rajiv Chowk. So changing a name didn’t change its oppressive character.
This government has selectively chosen Rajpath and Mughal Gardens for changing names. India Gate remains as it is. This shows the intent of the government that it has nothing to do with decolonisation. The case of the Mughal gardens is even more ridiculous, as this garden has little connection with the Mughals.
The politics of name-changing has been carried out by almost all political parties but there is a fundamental difference from its current attempts. The groups that changed the names of places based on the names of their heroes or symbols, emerging from Left or socialist ideology, have had a logical historical perspective behind it, which negates the symbols and names of injustice and oppression. This is debatable. But at its core, it is not a communal or fascist intent, merely an attempt to establish the identity of their ideological symbols.
On the other hand, the intent behind the current government’s name-changing is seen as majority appeasement and communal, with no historical perspective. It is built on empty rhetoric, aggressive and irrational nationalism, and divisive communal arguments, pushing the country further towards a mobocracy.
As told to Abhishek Srivastava