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The General stupidity in VK Singh's attempt to rename Akbar Road

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 19 May 2016, 18:12 IST

India's reeling under multiple crises. Hundreds across the country have died from the scorching heat, including over 300 in Telangana alone. A quarter of India's population, some 33 crore people spread across 254 districts and 10 states, are drought affected. But if Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh is to be taken seriously, the biggest issue facing the nation is how Delhi roads have been named through history.

In a letter to Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Singh addressed the biggest problem facing the nation - that Akbar Road should be renamed Maharana Pratap Road because the latter ruler hasn't received the credit he deserves. Maybe the heat in the national capital is affecting the General's head, but, nonetheless, it's what he believes.

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That Singh's letter was addressed to Naidu doesn't do much to dispel the notion that his mind is wilting in the summer heat, because renaming the road in question does not fall under Naidu's ministry but the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

Being a minister with countless flunkies, as is the norm, Singh should've known better. Because not only has Venkaiah Naidu distanced the Centre from Singh's statements, but the NDMC is actually quite open to renaming roads named after Mughal leaders. Aurangzeb lost out to APJ Abdul Kalam scarcely a year ago and the change it had was incredible.

Almost overnight, Delhi's electricity and water woes ceased, pollution decreased, traffic congestion eased and the number of poor dropped. Oh wait, none of that happened because instead of matters of actual administration, the NDMC decided to waste their time renaming roads. Just look at Gurugram, you could rename it Switzerland, but would it change the city from the shambolic landfill it is? Of course not. Good governance does that, name changes do not.

And I've carried out an experiment which proves just that. Two years ago, in the aftermath of the Sant Rampal siege and arrest, I decided to change my name on Facebook to Sant Ranjan. Nothing happened. I got called Sant a few times by people unfamiliar with me, but by and large I was still referred to as Ranjan. Now, I imagine that in 50 years maybe more people may know me as Sant, but will it make any difference to the quality of my life? Probably not.

VK Singh evidently doesn't see things the same way. To him, Maharana Pratap deserves more credit and Akbar considerably less. You know who wouldn't care about this whole fiasco? Both men. Because they've been dead for nearly 500 years.

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But hey, Maharana Pratap probably does deserve more credit. After all, he managed to fend off the might of the Mughals. But how does being remembered by a road name make things any better? And more importantly, what awareness does it generate? I travel on Baba Gang Nath marg every single day. Do I know who or what Baba Gang Nath is? Not at all. In fact, I only bothered to try and find answers for the purpose of this piece. You know what I found? Nothing.

If VK Singh really cared about Maharana Pratap's legacy he'd be lobbying to have school curricula educate our students better. Even if it didn't make children more enthusiastic about India's storied past it would at least save us from fiction about Pratap passed off as fact from supposedly reputable media houses.

Just sample this drivel put out by India Today under their 'General Knowledge' category:

"Maharana Pratap is revered as one of the strongest warriors India has ever seen. Standing at 7 feet 5 inches, he would carry a 80-kilogram spear and two swords weighing around 208 kilograms in total. He would also wear an armour weighing 72 kilogram."

That's not a real man, that's Ser Gregor The Mountain from Game of Thrones. And that dude is purple.

But, at the end of the day, there's another important issue that actually needs addressing. Why not name something new after Pratap? Why must it be at the expense of Akbar? When Aurangzeb Road was renamed after former president Kalam, it didn't rankle too much for two reasons. Firstly, Kalam was liked and respected across the board. Secondly, it was a Muslim making way for a Muslim, however skewed the logic may be. Thirdly, he had recently died, and objecting to it would've been a sign of disrespect.

With this move, it seems like a deliberate attempt at trying to erase India's rich and undeniable tryst with Islam courtesy of the Mughals. Surely there are new roads being built across the country that could use a name. But if it must be a road name, and it must be in Delhi, let me ask you this General Singh, what has Copernicus ever done for India?

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First published: 19 May 2016, 18:07 IST