Renamed Rajpath Symbolizes Duties Sans Rights

4 Min
Renamed Rajpath Symbolizes Duties Sans Rights

Tushar Charan

It must be rare in the rest of the world when a prime minister presides over an elaborate ceremony to rename a lawn (in the famed Central Vista of Delhi) and immediately hails it as a sign of the end of ‘slavery’ and ‘colonialism.’ But then Narendra Modi is not an ordinary prime minister; he has decreed that everything that he does and say must be celebrated as a big event to enthrall the nation. A bonus for him: ‘Events’ divert attention from issues that affect the daily lives of the people.

Actually, for millions of Indians who have strolled along the Central Vista in the past, the new look ‘Indian Gate lawns’ with all their shining tiles and trimmed green grass would evoke a wistful nostalgia. It will no longer be possible to walk and roll on the lawns; no longer will it be possible to feel the softness while walking on gravel paths. Ice-cream trolleys will have to operate from a fixed place. 

Many may look back on days when the huge ‘India Gate lawns’ were the venue for protests and marches. The ‘Bloat Club’ was a favourite of the champions of causes lost and simmering. In fact, going back a little further, one can recall that most demonstrations and marches against the government used to terminate just outside the Parliament House Gate on Parliament Street.      

In keeping up with his reputation as the country’s biggest and most successful event manager, Modi became the star when he opened only a part of a remodeled Central Vista  in Delhi–cost Rs 20,000 crore—on September 8 and presented before the citizens a beholding sight of new-look green lawns dissected with clean ‘canals’, and cemented sidewalks which replaced the old gravel paths.

 Politically for him, perhaps the bigger event in the same complex was his inauguration of a giant-sized bronze statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a one-time Congress president and revolutionary who tried to wage a war against the British rulers of India with help from some enemies of the then imperial powers. 

Having poached several leaders of the freedom movement, nearly all members of the Congress, Modi does not see the irony of lionising a figure who, if anything, was diametrically opposed to what the prime minister and his BJP stand for.

His skill lies in not only convincing his followers (in millions) that the freedom fighters the BJP now reveres were true ‘nationalists’, as opposed to others like Jawaharlal Nehru, whom the saffron fraternity hates with passion for promoting liberalism and rational thinking—beliefs ‘alien’ to India and its ‘Sanskars’ (traditions).

It is a tradition in India—and perhaps in other countries as well—that an occasion like unveiling a leader’s statue would coincide with either the birthday or the death anniversary of the leader. September 8 was neither the birthday of Bose (January 23) nor his death anniversary (though there is a controversy about it, he is believed to have died in a plane crash on August 18). It was reported that some family members of Bose were not happy with the ‘event’ Modi was celebrating.

It is a little confusing, going by all the rhetoric from Modi, whether India can be considered a totally independent nation because he has been discovering many signs of ‘slavery’ and ‘colonialism’ in today’s India. Many of his followers say that India attained ‘freedom’ only in May 2014 when Modi became prime minister.

There is a long list of names of palaces that require rechristening by the saffron party. The worst sign of ‘colonialism’ and ‘slavery’, according to the prime minister and his wise followers, is the continued prevalence of the English language in India.

Each change of name of a place is believed to add to the popularity of the ruling party and strengthens its ‘nationalist’ credentials, even when the new names often refuse to catch on. For example, one has not heard any of the acquaintances call Gurugram anything other than its old name, Gurgaon. For a government for which the name of any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family acts like a red rag, it must be heartening to know that barring some new comers to the city, everyone knows the ‘heart’ of the Indian capital as Connaught Place and Connaught Circus, not Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk, the names given at the suggestion of Mani Shankar Iyer over three decades ago.

No one need be surprised if the name Rajpath continues to be used in place of Kartyvapath even with all the wholehearted support of the media. An interesting thing here is that till about the 1950s, Rajpath and Janpath were known as Kingsway and Queensway which were erased from memory rather quickly, probably because the country was still to get over the hangover from crushing the foreign yoke in 1947.              

Shifting focus on Bose may have been chosen carefully. For it was Bose who founded the famous Azad Hind Fauj and famously asked his countrymen to give him ‘blood’ and he would return with ‘Azadi’ (freedom). Many spirited Indians of the time took his call as their ‘duty’ and joined his ‘Fauj’ (army) to fight the British. Modi is also calling upon citizens to perform their ‘duty’. 

Modi in his speech at the revamped Central Vista laid emphasis on duty, as he has done on many previous occasions. Rajpath (State Road) was given a newe name Kartavyapath (Duty Road) which in the opinion of Modi reflected the spirit of a really ‘free’ India. It matters little that the new name has not appealed to lot many while some would be struggling to pronounce it properly.

So what? The prime minister had delivered a message in no uncertain manner: The citizens of India must always remember that they have ‘duties’ to perform for the good of the nation. The accent on ‘duty’ conveys a deeper message to the citizens: They can demand their rights only after they have performed their ‘duties’.

It has been abundantly clear in the last seven or eight years that any questioning of the government or the ruling party will be taken as an affront, inviting the charge of being ‘anti-national’. What the leader does is always for the good of the country.   

Those who have been critical of the government’s plan to revamp the Central Vista as an example of profligacy can only grind their teeth in frustration and anger. We will soon have a new Parliament House, an ‘executive enclave’ consisting of a palace for the prime minister at the apex of Raisina Hills, and building high-rise office complexes on the northern side of the Central Vista lawns. 

Critics have already been denounced fulsomely for their audacity to question the ‘most popular leader’ of India who is beyond any fault. It becomes the ‘duty’ of the citizens to praise, not run down, a ‘semi-god’ like figure who presides over the destiny of the nation. (SAT)