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Changing Aligarh to Harigarh: Renaming Cities, an attempt to remove History?

Changing Aligarh to Harigarh: The Politics of Naming and renaming cities in India


Recently, The Aligarh district panchayat has proposed the Uttar Pradesh government for renaming Aligarh to Harigarh. Another idea to rename Firozabad district Chandra Nagar is circulating. Well, this is not the first time, the government has proposed changing the names of the city. And do we have a reason to not agree more to the fact that there are several other important issues that are to be addressed by the government at present else than renaming the cities? And also, do we have fewer reasons to questions how renaming cities are removing history?

Changing Aligarh to Harigarh: the saga of Renaming Cities, Removing History

Then the question that arises is what is the need for changing the names of places? And here, it’s worth recalling George Orwell’s quote from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

-George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Well, the saga of renaming history has been existing for ages. Bombay to Mumbai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Madras to Chennai and so on but these changes were made in line with the idea of bringing the Indian culture back after the British rule. At present, renaming is becoming more of a trend and the renaming trends are subsequent to likely erase history. And the selection of places and names that are to be renamed are identifiably subsequent to harm the religious diversity of the country.

To put this in context, here’re a few recent incidents and proposals where the cities/ places have been renamed-

Last year, the administration of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) decided to rename the Mughal Museum Project which is ongoing since 2016. This museum in Agra is designed to highlight the political and cultural milestones of the Mughal Empire and is home to the iconic Mughal masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, which was designed to highlight the “political and cultural milestones”.

During the announcement of this project, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath questioned, “How can our heroes be Mughals?” and ideated the intentions of renaming the museum after Hindu king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He did this in order to “evoke a sense of nationalism and self-esteem.”

The historic Mughalsarai Junction Railway Station in the state of Uttar Pradesh was renamed after the right-wing Hindu thinker Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in August 2018, most likely because the previous name related to the Indian Muslim Mughal empire.

In 2015, the Aurangzeb Road in Delhi was renamed after A P J Abdul Kalam, the ex-Indian president as a result of the objections to the Shiv Sena Hindustan.

And while there have been several other proposals and renamings in the last few years, the recent incident of renaming Aligarh to Harigarh has been in discussion.

Well, history suggests Mughals ruled India and made these monuments, but future generations might never be able to relate to it. They will either be confused in identifying the relationship of the Taj Mahal with Chhatrapati Shivaji or know a new, re-written history. They won’t be able to identify the history of an entire community as there will be a new history, new, confusing, visible evidence.

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To put in context, in 2017, the Maharashtra State Education Board has removed chapters regarding Muslim rulers in India and the Mughals from its history textbooks for Class VII and IX. The chapters were previously included in the textbooks’ prior editions. The scholarly literature currently largely concentrates on the dominion of Maratha warrior king Shivaji.

A similar incident was seen in textbooks of  Class IX and X where the BJP government in the state of Rajasthan tweaked history by showing Maharana Pratap defeated Akbar in the battle of Haldighati which is factually incorrect. Some books also wiped out the history of Gandhi and Nehru and embraced the words of Nathuram Godse, reports The Hindustan Times.

We believe that these evidences are ample enough to help identify the attempts of rewriting history. Of washing the truth. Or proving what Orwell said, Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.

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