Historians and urban planners on Monday slammed the renaming of Dalhousie Road to Dara Shikoh Road in the national capital as a “populist move” while alleging that history was being “distorted and appropriated” for political gains in the garb of rechristening.
“One should not meddle with the past, a city’s life span is layers of past and present and, the past, whether good or bad, cannot be erased or wished away. These names are not just names, but also documentation of our past.
“It is sad that one after another, streets are being renamed. History is always the first victim of politics and now, with a spree of rechristening, history has been distorted and appropriated,” noted historian Irfan Habib alleged.
New Delhi Municipal Council, the civic body which governs the posh Lutyens’s Delhi area, in a special meeting today decided to rename Dalhousie Road after the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
This is the third time that the NDMC has renamed a street in less than two years. In 2015, Aurangzeb Road was changed to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road and Race Course Road, where the Prime Minister’s residence is located, was rechristened Lok Kalyan Marg last year.
Lamenting the decision, renowned architect and urban planner A G K Menon said, “Aurangzeb Road’s renaming only had opened the Pandora’s box. And Race Course road, which was a harmless name, was changed. And now Dalhousie. We fear that this pattern will now continue.
“Renaming is a populist move and carries a political imperative. Political parties, of all hues, have done it for decades. People’s representatives and municipal bodies should focus on addressing civic issues instead, that is the way forward, not renaming streets and meddling with history,” Menon told PTI.
Dalhousie Road, which is less than 2 km away from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, was named after James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie, who served as the Governor-General of India from 1848-1856. His reign also saw consolidation of railways in the country.
“Street names in Lutyens’ Delhi reflect the span of history, from Ashoka Road to Humayun Road to Chelmsford Road, carrying with it the layers of history from ancient to Mughal to British era. Renaming only reflects prejudice towards history and a very immature sense of politics,” Habib said.
New Delhi was designed by British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens along with Sir Herbert Baker from 1911-1931.
According to noted historian Narayani Gupta, names of streets were suggested by noted historian Percival Spear, who was teaching history at St Stephen’s College then.
Anil Kumar, Associate Professor of History at Visva Bharati University, says, “It has opened a can of worms. Fringe elements in places outside Delhi would now try to do the same. But, what is sad is that a figure like Dara Shikoh has unnecessarily been dragged into a controversy.”