Thursday, March 23, 2023

Supreme Court junks plea to rename places

In recent times we have increasingly been witnessing wherever BJP is in control of the governments, both in the states and at the Centre, renaming of places i.e., roads and streets is taking place from Muslim and Christian to Hindu. On the one hand, the Hindutva, Sanadana, and Manuvadi forces along with RSS and BJP are bent on rewriting Indian history to suit their point of view, ideology and politics, while on the other, keep changing the names of the roads and streets that have Christian and Muslim names.
It is indeed glaring on the part of Hindutva outfits to get rid of the baggage of rulers belonging to Islamic and Christian histories by going all out renaming. Changing the names of places thereby christening them with Hindu names have become the regular pattern nowadays. The reason is these names have lost its relevance and significance and by all means be made redundant in an increasingly saffronising India. Renaming spree continues as RSS-BJP finds its solace and propaganda by doing as its part of Hindu Rashtra.
The fringe went ahead in taking up ‘re-naming’ project into their hands. For instance, das after Aurangabad and Osmanabad were renamed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar and Dharashive respectively, the Supreme Court on the 27th of January, 2023 said attempts to erase the imprints of Muslim invaders on cities and towns b rechristening them with their ancient identities was fraught with danger. In its verdict the apex court said to the petitioner Ashwin Upadhyay who wanted the ministry of home affairs to set up a committee to restore the names of such cities that “Do you want to go back to the past, keep the issue alive and keep the country on the boil? Your fingers are pointed at one community. You must remember India is a secular country.”
Asking him not to dig up history in a bid to keep the present and future generations “prisoners of past”, Justice K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna said, “you want to bring a certain point of view on history … and create more disharmony.” Dismissing his PIL, the judges told Upadhyay that “We cannot wish away the invasions. But can’t we move forward and deal with the problems at hand.” The Supreme Court categorically said that “Historical aberrations can’t haunt present and future generations of the nation to a point that succeeding generations become prisoners of the past. What is of the greatest important for the country is the preamble of the Constitution, which professes secularism and maintenance of harmony and fraternity between different sections.”
The apex court has added that “Look at the problem you will be creating by going back to the past selectively. Do you want to keep the country on the boil by pointing at a particular community? What is the point in digging into the past? Can’t we move forward and deal with the problem at hand?” Justice Nagarathna said: “Hinduism is a way of life, and it is free from bigotry. Do not belittle it.” Upadhyay, the petitioner submitted long list of cities named after Muslim invaders who are known in history to have indulged in mass killings and conversions of Hindus and demanded that the dignity of the ancient country of India, the right to freedom of religion, right to know of citizens and right to culture be restored by renaming them as per the references of the puranic texts and history.”
Justice Joseph conceded that the petitioners has given certain facts which were not known to him, but dismissed it as a certain point view on history. However, he clarified that “What we have learnt from history is that Akbar was trying to bring cohesion between different religious groups through Din-E-Elahi.” He added that “Hinduism is the greatest religion in terms of metaphysics. The height it reached through Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita is unequalled. No one could come anywhere near it. Do not belittle. We must understand our greatness and be magnanimous. The world looked at India in the past and still looks up to it. I am a Christian, but I am equally fond of Hinduism and try to understand its greatness.”
The petitioner Upadhyay argued how Shaktipeeths have been desecrated and renamed after barbaric Muslim invaders, the Supreme Court said: “That is a fact in India’s history. It is no secret that India remained under foreign rule. We cannot wish away the invasions. But what is the point in digging into the past? Do we not have other problems in hand? Can’t we move forward and deal with the problems at hand?” The bench categorically said that “India is embedded in the rule of law, secularism, and constitutionalism. Article 14 stands on a grand guarantee of the founding fathers to make the country a democracy, a Republic and involve all communities against discrimination by the state. It is important that the country moves forward. The directive principles and fundamental rights are two wheels of the governance chariot for progress of the government must encompass all sections of the society.”
Nevertheless, Upadhyay continued his firm position arguing that Hindus have been reduced to minority in 200 of the 700-odd districts. “Hindus too have a right to practice and profess their religions. Why should they be forced to remember Mohammed Ghori, Chami and not remember their ancient history and culture through the names of cities by which they were known prior to invasion.” Though the Supreme Court junked the plea of Upadhyay, those with mind-sets will continue to re-naming the roads and streets thereby replacing with Hindu names who they want to eulogize and venerate. Their fingers do not point to one community, but have gradually moved to Christian names as well. For instance, CM of Maharashtra Eknath Shinde passed a resolution rename the iconic Churchgate station to Chintamanrao Deshmukh station. Churchgate station is an integral part of the city’s history and culture for over 150 years. Mumbaikars have fond memories of Churchgate. Changing the name of the railway station without any public consultation is a disregard to Mumbai’s heritage and history.
History teaches many lessons. The present and future generations need to know what happened in the past, so that they would learn from the errors enables them not to repeat. The names and statues symbolize stories of the past. By removing them one hardly knows and learns from the past. Over and above, history is also written from the perspective of the dominant and the victor, but by and large, failed to interpret from the perspective of vanquished.
However, in order to be objective, history will have to be written taking both the sides into consideration. The stance taken by the RSS-BJP and its outfits, to renaming the roads and streets and history would lead to one-side which is narrow, fanatical, and partial. BJP-RSS wants to paint one-sided history, which eventually be under scrutiny in future. Those involved in such activities need to go beyond pettiness and be objective. As Mason Cooley points out: “Our society civilization is shifting from science and technology to rhetoric and litigation.”
Dr. John Mohan Razu

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