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India's Multiculturalism Must Be Preserved

By Vinod Saighal

June 21, 2017

Recently the name of Aurangzeb Road was changed to Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Road.

This writer had known Dr. Kalam for over two decades before he became President. Naturally they could not have named the road after him while he was alive.

However, were he to have had any inkling as to what was in the offing he not only would have frowned on it, he would have been horrified. Those who effected the change did so almost surreptitiously. They represented a segment in the governing hierarchy seeking favour with the powers that be.

Neither the citizens of Delhi nor the people of India were consulted prior to the action that might have found favour with the extreme right wing elements in the country, but was looked upon with distaste by a large number of their countrymen/women.

Whence this besmirching of past rulers of India from other denominations and how far will it go? As if that semi-surreptitious change were not enough, the next projected change that could be in the offing was reported in national dailies on Sunday 21 May 2017.

One of the excerpts reads: "Rename Babar Road after Lt. Fayaz: Bagga". Bagga happens to be a BJP spokesperson as reported in the press. Going by past practice the proposal could be taken up by the NDMC governing council whose chairperson and nominated members would take their cue from the ruling dispensation.

It is possible that the previous name change was ostensibly not considered by the cabinet or even the concerned ministry, unless informal sanction not in public knowledge was tacitly obtained?

The people don’t know. Is this going to be the norm at the Centre and in state after state of the Union of India? As a mature and respected nation the country – possibly through default - appears to be going in penny-packets from one ridiculous extreme to another Babar was the founder of one of the greatest dynasties of the world at that time.

The dynasty enjoyed the respect and, in some cases awe, of practically all the ruling dynasties of the world of the period. Just as the ancient Mauryan and Gupta Empires were considered golden periods in Indian history, in like manner, Mughal rule provided much-needed stability to the sub-continent.

Most historians not biased by denominational fervour consider Akbar’s rule as a golden period and his Din-e-Ilahi (although it did not gather many adherents and lapsed after his death) - Divine Faith in Persian - a sincere attempt at syncretism. During most of their three-centuries plus rule, at least up to Emperor Aurangzeb, India did not suffer the ravages visited upon it by Central Asian marauders starting with Mahmud Ghazni (of Somnath Temple fame) followed by Timur The Lame) well before Babur’s victory in 1526 and the founding of the Mughal Empire.

The decline of the Mughals brought Nadir Shah who looted Delhi after much carnage and carried away the famous Peacock Throne. (It is said that the Peacock Throne now in the Museum in Tehran is not the original one, but a replica.)

The deeper frustration of the right wing that has come to power at the Centre with a thumping majority lies not merely in the fact that India was ruled by Muslims and the British for over a thousand years.

The deeper subliminal humiliation that is felt and which cannot be expressed openly lies in knowing deep down in their beings that no Hindu king was able to unite India after the Maurya-Gupta golden age that lasted a millennium. Doubtless, there were sagas of great heroism in the stirring tales of Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Rani Jhansi, Guru Gobind Singh and many others that have gone unrecorded.

However, on the size of a subcontinent, these glowing events in the saga of empires are mere flips on the template of history in millennial time scales. For good or for bad each one of us is the product and successor of all those emperors, kings and queens who ruled India and made it, through trials and tribulations, what it is today.

We cannot re-write India’s history based on the whims of those Indians, now to the fore, who cannot eliminate the rancour from their hearts of defeat after defeat of Hindu kingdoms who kept fighting their individual wars and failed to unite to ward of the invaders from across the Himalayas and from the seas.

Should good sense not prevail to let the past rest in peace and insist on re-imagining history as they would have liked it to have been, an appeal is made to the Honourable High Courts and the Supreme Court to set down guidelines so that abundant caution is exercised and extensive consultations undertaken prior to making changes of the type mentioned above.


Vinod Saighal, a retired Major-General of the Indian Army, is author of Third Millennium Equipoise.