Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Aurangzeb Road or Abdul Kalam Road: A road treaded a bit too far

   Recent renaming of Aurangzeb road to Abdul Kalam road by New Delhi Municipal Corporation has caused uproar among a section of society including mainstream media and political class. I would not go into whether it is right or wrong. They could well have avoided it. What is funny is the kind of points being put forward in both print and internet media to criticize the action, justify Aurangzeb's actions and to prove greatness of the last prominent Mughal ruler.
   A close look at a few articles is in order. This mostly well balanced article compares Aurangzeb's destruction of temples with that of Vasundhara Raje Sindhia, present CM of Rajasthan and almost justifies the act.  
   This article tells us that Aurangzeb "is like the kuttichathu of Malayalis—responsible for anything that went wrong." The author contends that Aurangzeb was made responsible for all wrongs. And what wrongs are being cited - that the last mughal was a bigot, fanatic, imposed excessive taxes and destroyed temples in every nook and corner of India.  
   Now lets take a look at the very popular TOI and Mumbai Mirror. A very prominent journalist in this informative article(picture below) in Mumbai Mirror puts Aurangzeb in perspective with other Mughal rulers Babar, Shah Jahan, Akbar, Jahangir and Humayun. He tells us that Shah Jahan and Jahangir were nobodies, that Akbar was no less cruel than anybody else. He further goes on to tell us the greatness of Aurangzeb declaring with the ending line that "Aurangzeb was certainly great".
   As for his shortcomings, we are told that "The action against temples came in three stages: no new temples, no renovating old ones, break old temples" and that, "this order was followed indifferently, probably because of the emperor's lack of enthusiasm". So two points are to be noted, one, destruction of temples was done indifferently. So the thousands of temples were destroyed with no "specific interest". Two, author would like to attribute this indifference to Aurangzeb's lack of enthusiasm. One should consider this along with the fact that Aurangzeb stopped listening to music because one of the hadiths said so as per the same author. To conclude, Aurangzeb was ardent follower of Islam so much so that he stopped doing what he liked, but he had no particular interest in destroying temples which he did in countless numbers.
   This TOI article (picture above) tells us that Aurangzeb was the only Indian that Britishers could not beat. Isn't it a matter of pride for all Indians? But it would like us to forget that Aurangzeb was the emperor of India and Britishers were nobodies then. And Gujarat had its "tangible achchhe din" under him. A historian is quoted that ban on music was really economic in nature. I have no problem with this explanation except that it doesn't tie with the Mumbai mirror article quoted above. It also safely ignores the war on temples that Aurangzeb waged across India as it would like us to believe that the Mughal emperor is being victimized and shall remain alive among historians.
   While these articles have brought a lot of hitherto not known facts about Aurangzeb and other Mughal rulers they have gone a bit too far to twist the picture they would like readers to see.

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