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The folly of renaming: Will we ever learn?

Monitor News Bureau

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It’s not often that something US President Donald Trump says can be recommended to India’s leaders. But his comment on the futility of trying to rewrite the past certainly deserves the attention of myopic ruling party politicians like Yogi Adityanath, who may believe he has erased the Mughals from history by transforming Mughal Sarai into Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Nagar, or Maheish Girri, the East Delhi MP, responsible for renaming Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments” Mr Trump tweeted last week. “You can’t change history”, he warned, and then, displaying rare perspicacity, added, “but you can learn from it”. The rulers of contemporary India can certainly learn from Aurangzeb that the liberal temper of this country will not put up with the straitjacket of a single religious discipline. That Mr Girri replaced one Muslim name with another only exposed a saffron politician’s predictable communal blinkers. He didn’t realise he was tampering with national — not just sectarian — history.
We’ll see more such propagandist exercises now that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has struck a brave blow at all the Mughals and their sarais instead of tinkering about with an emperor here and a consort there. If Aurangzeb has been banished, his father must be too. Without Shah Jahan, there can’t be a monument to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. One can see Yogi Adityanath reaching out to Agra, having taken his lesson from the late P.N. Oak, that great and glorious fiction writer of the Hindu rashtra that never was. Oak argued that far from being Mughal, the Taj Mahal is really a corrupt form of the Sanskrit “Tejo Mahalay”, signifying a Shiva temple. Thanks to him, we can rest content when Pakistanis stir up mischief in Kashmir or Chinese troops sneak into Doklam that Hindus once conquered Italy, and that even Westminster Abbey was a Shiva temple. Surely, the Prime Minister has been remiss in not bestowing some posthumous honour on a man who anticipated India’s glowing present and glorious future under Mr Modi’s benediction and tried to invent a Hindu past that lives up to it?
Governments that are concerned with mundane matters such as the material welfare of their people might frown on such creativity. Singapore, the only ex-colony to make a success of independence according to Jagat Mehta, the former foreign secretary, believes that chopping and changing the past erodes investor confidence. Singaporeans recall how James Putucheary, the India-born, Santiniketan-educated radical head of Singapore’s first Industrial Promotion Board, proposed soon after independence to demolish the statue of Stamford Raffles, the island-state’s British founder. “That was left over by the colonialists” Putucheary told two United Nations economists, Albert Winsemius and Tang I-Fang. “What would you think if we replaced it with a statue of Marx or Lenin?” It was a troubling thought, and Lee Kuan Yew says Winsemius accepted the job of chief economic adviser only on condition that the statue wasn’t disturbed. Raffles still strikes a heroic pose by the Singapore River, arms folded determinedly across his chest, symbolising continuity and stability.
Smaller men than Lee take a narrower view of history, being incapable of grasping that the cycle of events is not concerned with individual likes and dislikes. The past can’t be revised to suit a present that is forever changing. It cost West Bengal’s United Front government nothing in the late 1960s to rededicate the 165-ft British monument in Calcutta’s Maidan honouring General Sir David Ochterlony, who won Britain’s wars against Nepal, to shaheeds in the cause of revolution. Ireland’s revolutionaries were more honest. They didn’t like the column in the heart of Dublin to an English admiral, Horatio Nelson, and blew it up. As Calcutta’s roads were renamed and statues removed, small-time patriots had to be persuaded that the busts of the Twelve Caesars in Raj Bhavan didn’t represent former governors. They also thought at first that the statue of Minerva along with classical representations of justice, commerce, science and agriculture along the balustrade of Writers’ Buildings, the state secretariat, were colonial memsahibs.
Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda dominating the intersection of MG Road and Subhash Chowk also demonstrates the folly of such changes. Many protested when the large equestrian statue was removed in a fit of patriotic zeal that the horse was a prominent landmark and more famous than its royal rider, King Edward VII. That the name survives to denote a district and cultural enclave and that no one thinks of Kala Ghoda as a colonial memorial shows that memory can’t be blacked out because it may be inconvenient for some.
Of course even today’s India hasn’t scaled the absurd heights of the US where a popular sports presenter called Robert Lee, obviously of Chinese extraction, was pulled from an assignment to cover a Virginia football match after the recent uproar over the statue of General Robert Lee, the Confederate commander in the 1861-65 Civil War. But India is far from matching enlightened Britain where a nine-ft bronze Mahatma Gandhi, costing more than a million pounds, was erected in London’s Parliament Square two years ago. This wasn’t the first either. Burying yesterday’s enmities, the British installed a modest bust of Gandhi in Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury nearly 50 years ago. That generosity is so far removed from India’s vicious inter-party hatreds that I am not surprised to be asked by informed foreigners how long the Indira Gandhi International Airport will retain its name. I tell them it’s my guess the Prime Minister’s advisers are too canny to make an obvious change that would expose the BJP’s weakness.


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Lockdown fallout: Anxiety, depression cases surge in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Oct 15: Fifty-year-old Fatima (name changed) feels jitters when she recalls the night she saw an SOS from her younger brother flashing on the television news channel.

“Call me immediately,” flashed the message on the scroll of a TV channel. The world blackened out for Fatima when she read the message from her younger brother.

It was after four weeks post abrogation of state’s special status that she heard from her younger brother, who works in a private company in Middle East.

 

Crushed by apprehensions triggered by the sudden message on TV, Fatima developed frequent panic attacks, which landed her at the Government Psychiatric hospital, Rainawari.

 “My wife kept on saying that something bad has happened to him. Despite our reassurances, she was bogged down by negative thoughts which became the reason for the panic attacks,” lamented her husband.

Moreover, he was not able to contact his brother-in-law as there was no functional land-line in the neighborhood. “Going to DC office was out of question given the severe restrictions from our side at that time,” he said

 Similarly 45-year-old Tabassum (name changed) was hovered by the negative thoughts of her daughter’s bleak future which landed her in depression.

She hoped that her daughter will benefit from the 50 percent quota reserved for the female MBBS students.

After the abrogation of article 370, she apprehended that the Centre would do away with the quota, thus, crushing her daughter’s dreams of becoming a doctor.

 “She cried very easily. Her recurrent question would be: Will the government revoke the quota?” said her sister.

A senior consultant at the Psychiatric hospital termed the abrogation of Article 370 as “precipitating” and “perpetuating” factor to the conflict that is already 30 decades old.

“So many Kashmiris studying and working outside couldn’t contact their family members. Those living in Kashmir couldn’t contact their near and dear ones outside the valley, or for that matter inside the vale. This heightened the anxiety levels,” he said

The doctor noted that only 5-10 percent of patients reported at the hospital in August as the patient inflow was impeded by the lockdown.

“In the beginning phase of the communication lockdown, we couldn’t see many patients at the hospitals. They couldn’t reach here due to restrictions. Our essential services were also impacted,” he said.

The doctor asserted that the long terms effects of the ongoing crisis will be worse. “There will be more of depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and acute stress disorders,” he said.

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Omar sporting beard: Image shared on social media

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Oct 15: A day after the mobile services were resumed in the Kashmir valley, the first image of the National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah surfaced on social media.

Abdullah’s latest picture is doing rounds on Twitter and WhatsApp. The picture was reportedly taken when the NC delegation met him in Srinagar.

With a grey beard and short hair, Abdullah looks totally different than what he used to look prior to his detention.

 

The image is shared by various journalists.

Last month, reports surfaced that Omar had pronounced that he would not shave his beard till his release.

Reports also claimed that Abdullah spends time watching Hollywood movies and working out at the gym.

Along with Omar, his father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were also put into house arrest after the Narendra Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by diluting the Article 370.

The vice-president of the NC is detained at the government guesthouse at Hari Niwas Palace in Srinagar, while PDP chief Mufti is placed under detention at a JKTDC-owned hut at Chashma Shahi.

Initially, both the leaders were lodged at Hari Niwas Palace.

On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration resumed postpaid mobile services in the Valley.

The mobile services were shut down after the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370. However, prepaid and internet services will remain suspended for now. The Valley has around 66 lakh mobile users out of which 40 lakh use postpaid facilities.

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NIT Srinagar reopens

Agencies

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Srinagar, Oct 15: The National Institute of Technology (NIT) here reopened on Tuesday after being shut for two-and-a-half months.

The institution was closed in view of security concerns in the region post abrogation of Article 370 and the students who belonged to states other than Jammu and Kashmir were sent home.

“All the students were much tensed as the institution was closed for many days following the abrogation of the article 370. Now when it has finally re-opened we all are very excited and happy that we can continue our studies,” Praful, a student told ANI.

 

Mobile services were also restored in J&K on Monday after a span of over two months since the central government’s move to repeal Article 370 that accorded special status to the region.

The decision to restore mobile phone services came days after Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik announced the withdrawal of security advisory for tourists from October 10.

The administration had also said that tourists desirous of visiting the region will be provided with the necessary assistance and logistic support. (ANI)

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