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Name Game

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‘Cancelling’ symbols of past atrocities is a practice undertaken worldwide to ensure that dictators, slave-owners, colonisers, perpetrators of genocide, etc., do not represent a nation or its people. This is why the statues of Stalin and Lenin were brought down once the USSR ceased to be. Cities were given back their original names. Present day United States is removing statues of slave-owners even from universities and institutions they funded so as not to offend the descendants of those who suffered slavery. This is certainly justified.

In India, a similar process is underway to give cities their original names after these were changed by invaders. Unfortunately, this has become a political hot potato as the hubris of past democratically elected and popular leaders is also in the process of being toned down. The Congress has been objecting to changes such as the renaming of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi as the Prime Ministers’ Memorial and Library. The Congress has described such acts as ‘pettiness’ and reprehensible. However, this has not restrained its allies, the RJD and JD(U), from renaming the Atal Behari Vajpayee Park in Patna as ‘Coconut Park’, it original tag. It seems, Indians are going to see this political football hit the big leagues now. Every new government will take the vindictive route to undoing the changes made by the previous one. This is not all; it has extended to renaming welfare schemes and necessary reforms or even dumping them merely because these were initiated by the other. This is presently underway in Karnataka.

Where does this leave the general public (and map-makers), who will be even more confused when finding their way on repeatedly renamed roads to places that don’t have the names they previously had? The politicians need to develop a consensus on this merely for the sake of sanity, as it could not just be a minimum of five years, but every time a politician jumps ship, such as Shinde in Maharashtra or Nitish Kumar in Bihar. They must also consider who stands to lose more in this exchange – those who already have their names all over the place, or those who are wanting to – and act accordingly. Everybody needs to understand that India is not anybody’s private property and it should be the people’s will that prevails in such matters. People will take these factors into mind, also, while voting.