Aurangzeb Road lies in the centre of New Delhi (photo: HT)
Lazy populism once again took centre stage with the renaming of Aurangzeb Road in the capital as APJ Abdul Kalam Marg, in memory of the 83-year-old former president who died in July. However, the choice of road has been objected to by Muslim groups and politicians who claim it to be the result of an anti-Muslim political agenda.
Inevitably, a legal petition has now been filed in the Delhi High Court on Monday, seeking to restrain the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) from issuing a notification on the change of name, the final step in the process. The petitioner, advocate Shahid Ali, claimed the renaming was “an outcome of sick and communal politics”.
He cited the guidelines for renaming roads, which specify that the name of existing roads should normally not be changed and that only new roads should be considered for being named after eminent personalities.
"Names which are part of history will not be altered. All proposals for renaming will be referred to the ministry of home affairs in accordance with instructions in letter dated September 27, 1975," the PIL stated.
The NDMC took the decision to rename Aurangzeb Road at a meeting last Friday, just one month after East Delhi BJP MP Maheish Girri proposed the change to “correct the mistakes made in our history”.
On July 31, Girri had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, requesting that the road be renamed after Kalam.
“Whenever we remember Aurangzeb, we think about cruelty and torture. We do not want to be reminded of that. A P J Abdul Kalam, on the other hand, is known for his love for the nation, his loyalty to the country, his generosity and kindness. We need to correct the mistakes made in our history,” Girri said after his proposal was accepted.
The NDMC council reportedly passed the proposal with little dissent, with BJP and AAP politicians both supporting it. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is an NDMC member, tweeted later, “Congrats. NDMC just now decided to rename Aurangzeb Road to A P J Abdul Kalam Road.”
However, the renaming hasn’t gone down well with Muslim groups who see it as a "deliberate" move that is "likely to set the trend of rechristening other cities/streets distorting history".
"It is a deliberate effort, it will not halt here. This is because soon after the road was named after Abdul Kalamji, Shiv Sena said it will change the name of Maharashtra's Aurangabad district where the Mughal Emperor's graveyard is located.
"They have a long list of cities/roads named after some historical figures or Muslim Emperors, which they want to change," Dr S Q R Ilyas, President of Welfare Party of India and All India Muslim Personal Law Board member, told PTI.
Ilyas said Aurangzeb had not been "anti-Hindu" as is perceived, but "a secular" personality.
INTACH Convenor (Delhi Chapter), A.G.K. Menon called the NDMC decision “unfortunate”.
“The argument of modifying history by changing the name of a road is rather naïve. While governments, since they are an elected body, have every right to take decisions which include changing names of roads, they should have compelling reasons. You cannot change history or correct history,” Menon told Indian Express.