Unofficial Renaming of Akbar Road: Another Attempt at Meddling With the History

A poster that read ‘Maharana Pratap Road’ was found pasted on the signboard of one of Delhi’s iconic streets Akbar road, on May 9. In what appeared to be a mischievous act, the signboard was disfigured with a poster on the day, which also marks the birth anniversary of the Rajput King Maharana Pratap who went into battle against Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1576.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the act and the defacers still remain unidentified, the poster was removed, shortly afterwards, under police supervision.

An FIR has been filed by Delhi Police on a complaint by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

“No such proposal (of renaming the Akbar Road) has been received by the council, neither such a renaming has been approved. The defacement of the signboard is a law and order issue and the police should take the required action,” PTI quoted an NDMC spokesperson as saying.

Akbar Road is dotted with residences of several senior politicians such as Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti and Suresh Prabhu, as well as BJP president Amit Shah. It also houses the headquarters of the Congress party.

The history of re-naming business
This is not the first time that the signboard has been defaced. A similar case was registered in 2016, when stickers saying ‘Maharana Pratap’ were stuck over the signboard. Interestingly, Hindu sena, a right-wing group, had taken responsibility for the defacement then.

This is also not the first time when the Indian streets have to go through an identity crisis. Myriad of recommendations have been forwarded by politicians, suggesting new identities for roads, “which has little to do with history, and everything to do with politics.”

The controversy regarding the Akbar Road was first sparked in 2016 by one such proposal to the government by Union Minister VK Singh. In a letter submitted, apparently to a wrong government branch, Singh requested renaming of Akbar road after Maharana Pratap.

Taking into consideration such suggestions by various political figures, New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), in last four years, has taken several decisions to re-name streets in Lutyens Delhi, which has prompted discussions about the treatment of the history by the government.

These alterations include – renaming of Aurangzeb Road as Abdul Kalam Road, which took place following recommendation of BJP MP Maheish Girri. He had said that Mughal ruler Aurangzeb was a cruel figure in history and does not deserve to be remembered this way, as reported by The Indian Express. Additionally, the Race Course Road was successfully renamed as Lok Kalyan Marg and Dalhousie Road is now called Dara Shikoh Road despite criticism and allegations against the government that these moves are to “deprive the people of a sense of history.”

Disassociation with ‘history’
Expressing discontent over such ‘populist moves’, an India Today report in 2017, quoted historian Irfan Habib as saying: “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.”

Such decisions also call into question the agendas of political parties at a time when everything is clearly not fine in the country and our representatives are more interested in meddling with the history to communally manipulate the society. 
Echoing similar sentiments, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, while addressing a public meeting in Panaji, rebuked the unofficial renaming of Akbar Road.

“Akbar Road will be changed, Aurangzeb Road will be changed. These little things will come together one day and become a whirlwind. That is the fear and apprehension of people like us,” IANS quoted him as saying.

First published in Newsclick.



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