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Home » Opinion » Renaming of cities: Politics of distorting History?

Renaming of cities: Politics of distorting History?

The government argues that the past rulers, to impose their own cultural and religious understanding have changed cities’ real name. They have also done to establish their hegemony.

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Renaming of cities: Politics of distorting History?

There is new fashion emerging in India especially after 2014 when the Modi government came into power. The BJP government started claiming to reclaim the glorious history of India. However, the glorious history of India has also been under scrutiny for so long.

The same glorious history of India had also been, India practicing discriminatory caste system and inhuman untouchability; the history of India is additionally the history of burning women alive in the name of Sati, depriving education to girl and Shudras.

Nevertheless, these are not the question to be hawked here, reasonably needs separate attention. The BJP government’s claim to reclaim history has nothing to do with history rather it is all about politics. The current central government is renaming the cities, roads, railway station and monuments across the country.

In doing so, they argue that they are reclaiming the real name and history or establishing the Indian culture which would make future generations remember alleged glorious India. There is, however, nothing in name; even if, why anybody should care for that. Nonetheless, there are few methodological issues emerged from this renaming culture. There are two bulging questions we all need to deal with.

Is it about reclaiming history?

The renaming is nothing new in India. It has been done previously by changing Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Banglore to Bengaluru and many more. It was believed that this act of government would wash away the colonial legacy but the real question remains same and that is; can it reclaim and return to that cultural amphitheater?

The government argues that the past rulers, to impose their own cultural and religious understanding have changed cities’ real name. They have also done to establish their hegemony.

Yes, that may be true! But, by doing so have they created history or expunged it. Certainly not! For example, Allahabad was Prayag and known for its cultural milieu for thousand years but that could not be obliterated, Allahabad is still known for it ‘Mahakumbh’, it is still a ‘Sangam city.’  The government’s argument, if valid then the government is doing the same now, which has been done by the past rulers. The government wants to create cultural and religious hegemony.

Are they trying to create history by changing the name of the city called Allahabad to Prayag to establish supremacy? Are they jettisoning the past? Possibly yes! But history is something that can never be altered. The only thing one can do is to add to it.

We may have sliced history into the timeline for our convenience but history has its own continuity. By replacing Allahabad with Prayag would not change anything, reclaim or create history rather it is in addition to that continuity.

Even if, Indian text removes Allahabad from everywhere but the text, which is already written and circulated throughout the world, will carry the history of Allahabad. The generations would definitely come to know that it was Allahabad, which now is Prayag. The time will proceed in the same way as it happened with us like we know the name Prayag was changed by the past rulers to Allahabad. So, there is no change taking place in history rather this is adding a new chapter in it.

It is like the Taliban has blasted the Bamyan Statue in Afghanistan even though we are aware that there was Buddha’s Statue in Afghanistan, so the purpose of the Taliban has not been accomplished. They probably did not understand the idea of change. We may destroy ‘forms’ but how can anyone destroy the idea of forms. The forms are not important but the idea of forms that has the capacity to be in the shape of forms.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his contribution towards women education

The government possibly assumes that they are reclaiming the so-called Hindu culture in India. The tipping point is, there is nothing called Hindu culture per se. The past rulers perceived the same also by creating the Islamic or Christian culture in India. They Badly failed in doing so. They probably missed the idea of change with continuity. Things always continue as an idea if not forms. Therefore, none can eliminate rather accept and proceed.

Is it about Politics?

Politics in the modern world has discarded the Aristotelian understanding of politics as a reconciliation of various sources of conflict. Politics in the modern world is nothing but the inheritance of Machiavellian display of power. Politics is centered on power and power has been understood in terms of the ability to dominate, control and creating hegemony.

The rulers have always used power for domination, control, and hegemonistaion. The idea of reclaiming the history is all about this politics. The politics is to discard all existing ideas by imposing one monolithic notion. This is the politics of hegemonisation, which can be done softly by homogenization. The homogenisation is the pathway to hegemonisation.

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Homogeneity has always been sought by the ruling elites so that they can stop any resistance from below. The power politics has devised two basic tools of ‘homogenization’ and ‘othering’ to rule. If homogenization fails they opt for othering, which is again easy to fix.  Actually, renaming or reclaiming has nothing to do with pride but the politics today is reduced to remain in power. The BJP government is changing the name so that they can avoid any change in power politics. They are reclaiming the history so that other may not claim the power.

Finally, it is important to say that the names are imagery and it has nothing to do with the build. When the government starts digging the past it basically compromises with present and future of generations. The government is trying to create ‘condition’ that needs ‘illusion’ and the ‘illusion’, which needs ‘condition’. The Prayag was named Allahabad and Allahabad is named Prayag, is all about illusion but the condition of the city and its population has remained same forever. This pitiable condition needed this illusion and the illusion needed this condition. Therefore, we must give up both, condition and illusion.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Deepak Bhaskar is Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University and presently Assistant Professor in Department of political science at Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi.

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