From a Mughal emperor to the “Missile Man”, Aurangzeb Road in Lutyens’ Delhi has been renamed as Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Road in honour of the late President.
The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) took the decision at a meeting Friday, just a month after East Delhi BJP MP Maheish Girri proposed the move to “correct the mistakes made in our history”.
On July 31, Girri wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, requesting that the road be renamed. His demand met, Girri said: “Whenever we remember Aurangzeb, we think about cruelty and torture. We do not want to be reminded of that. A P J Abdul Kalam, on the other hand, is known for his love for the nation, his loyalty to the country, his generosity and kindness. We need to correct the mistakes made in our history.”
The proposal was finalised after a council discussion that lasted a little over 15 minutes with little dissent. AAP MLA and NDMC member Surinder Singh was among the minority who questioned the choice of road.
“A few council members and I asked why Aurangzeb Road should be renamed. There are other main roads in the capital, such as Shanti Path, which can be renamed. However, the counter argument was that Aurangzeb Road is an important road. Moreover, although Aurangzeb was a great emperor, he is known for his dictatorial rule and the suppression of his subjects. Why should we honour such a person,” Singh said.
“Had there been a suggestion on renaming any other road bearing the name of a political leader, either the BJP or Congress or AAP would have raised objections,” he said.
However, INTACH Convenor (Delhi Chapter), A G K Menon called the move “unfortunate”. “The argument of modifying history by changing the name of a road is rather naïve. While governments, since they are an elected body, have every right to take decisions which include changing names of roads, they should have compelling reasons. You cannot change history or correct history.”
Minutes after the NDMC decision, Kejriwal, who is an NDMC member tweeted, “Congrats. NDMC just now decided to rename Aurangzeb Road to A P J Abdul Kalam Road.”
Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP MP from New Delhi, maintained that the proposal to rename Aurangzeb Road was pending since December 2014. “We had received requests from people, including residents of the area. I had written to the council on this. The names which were suggested at that time included Dara Shikoh Road and Guru Gobind Singh Road,” she said.
“In May this year, some road signages, including those of Aurangzeb Road, were defaced. I wrote to the council again, raising law and order concerns on the issue. After Kalam’s demise, the proposal to rename the road after him was sent to the council… The proposal was accepted unanimously,” Lekhi said.
The proposal note in the NDMC meeting to rename the road reasoned that other roads and areas had been “renamed in the past to honour great men and women.” The note cites changes including Connaught Place and Connaught Circus to Rajeev Chowk and Indira Chowk.