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Shashi Tharoor says, Renaming of Rajpath to Kartavya Path ‘pure politics’

Shashi Tharoor of the Congress argued that because the word ‘Rajpath’ is a Hindi word, the ancient Rajpath’s renaming to Kartavya Path was ‘pure politics.’

On the sidelines of a panel discussion on the book ‘British Takeover of India: Modus Operandi’ that was held at the India International Centre here on Tuesday night, Tharoor expressed support for renaming locations that were previously given to ‘obscure Brits’ after Indians, though he questioned what renaming Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras actually accomplished.

When questioned about his thoughts on the renaming of streets, cities, and institutions, he told PTI, ‘It’s a delicate matter since some sites have gained a particular resonance in the memory of Indians who have grown up with them.’

In the past 75 years, numerous streets, parks, schools, hospitals, and other institutions have had their names changed in the spirit of letting go of ‘colonial baggage.’ Renaming historic cities and landmarks has drawn criticism from a number of historians and preservation specialists over the years, who claim that doing so ‘breaks the continuity of history’ and amounts to the ‘erasure of public memories.’ ‘I support renaming locations that currently honour obscure British people with Indian names. But I believe you must act at some time. I’m not sure what it actually achieved, for instance, when cities like Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta were renamed,’ Tharoor added.

In the late 1990s, Bombay and Madras were renamed Mumbai and Chennai, and soon after, Calcutta was renamed Kolkata. Poona was afterwards called Pune, Mysore, Mysuru, Bangalore, and the state of Orissa, Odisha. Many locals continue to use the outdated names for these locations.

Soon after India gained its independence on August 15, 1947, a number of British-era streets, parks, and railway bridges in the capital city of New Delhi were named in honour of notable individuals and Indian freedom warriors.

Famous streets like Kingsway and Queensway, created by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker and running perpendicular to one another in the centre of the capital, were given the new names ‘Rajpath’ and ‘Janpath,’ respectively.

In September of last year, the ceremonial avenue in the nation’s capital known as ‘Rajpath’—which connects the Raisina Hill complex to India Gate—was renamed ‘Kartavya Path’ and shortly after that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially opened it as a part of the Central Vista Avenue renovation.

When asked why Rajpath was changed to Kartavya Path, Tharoor responded, ‘That’s pure politics, I am afraid. There’s nothing more than that. Because Rajpath itself is a Hindi word.’


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