Many cases have been reported of people driving down the Central Delhi road and ending up confused. Using Google Maps for directions, people were left puzzled as the signboards still displayed the former name – Aurangzeb Road. Apparently, Google Maps pre-empted the move and affected the name change in a rush, even before the name could be printed on the signboards. In order to tackle the this unforeseen confusion, the NDMC officials scraped Aurangzeb’s name overnight and replaced it with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s name.
The move, aimed at honouring the late President by renaming the colonial-era road named after the Mughal emporer, has been both widely criticised and welcomed. Personally, I don’t really mind the fading out, and fading in, of Aurangzeb and Kalam, respectively.
It’s a pity it took India 68 years, and President APJ Abdul Kalam’s death, to realise that Aurangzeb is undeservedly enjoying a road in his name. Although it doesn’t affect our lives, road names do influence our thought process and the time may have come for us to erase the memory of the British Empire, and Aurangzeb is appropriately the first casualty.
Roads are named after personalities for their contribution to the society. With roads named after powerful individuals like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Aurangzeb was always an oddity, a misfit.
The Mughal Emporer was called Alamgir – world seizer! He ruled the Indian subcontinent for almost half a century. He was an expansionist and a strong-handed authoritarian ruler. He was considered a killing machine who did not spare his family members even. Bigotry and repression were common, inequality rampant. Only the uuper most class enjoyed the perks of life, the disempowered suffered great oppression.
Politically and religiously traditional, Aurangzeb discarded freethinking approach to religious viewpoints after his ascension to the throne in 1658. The execution of the ninth Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur bear testimony to Aurangzeb’s religious narrow-mindedness. Aurangzeb was also infamous for temple destruction! He also had a great distaste for Christians, leading to enslavement of Christian converts.
He killed his brother, nephew and uncles because they raised objection to his ruthless rule.
The fact that we allowed his name to grace our roads for over half a century reflects our disinterest in historical facts. We have collectively taken the Aurangzeb Road a million times without understanding the legend behind the name, without thinking about its relevance.
For ages, the Aurangzeb Road has served as a reminder of the horrors the emperor committed against all non-Muslims. That should begin to change now.