By: Sajjad Shahid
The recent decision of the Telangana government to rename the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University after Telangana ideologue Prof. Jayashankar, led to a great hue and cry from the Andhra coterie. Surprisingly, the most vociferous protests came from TDP leaders as the party was responsible for putting an end to the great leader’s record run of six terms in parliament. The party had hailed its candidate Lal Jan Basha as a ‘giant killer’ in the 1991 elections when the late Guntur MP had trounced Ranga, inflicting on him the worst ever defeat. Public memory is short and even the party’s own leaders seem to have forgotten the tirade unleashed by their brethren against the feeble senior parliamentarian, then in his nineties.
Egyptian Pharaohs, it is said, made a habit of striking off references from stelae (commemorative markers) in order to establish their legitimacy and superiority over their predecessors. Despite such measures, neither the identity nor the legacy of those targeted could be erased absolutely. The legacy of N G Ranga too, cannot be obliterated by a mere change in the appellation of an institution commemorating the great man, especially when the divided assets of the university which remain with the Andhra state will continue to bear his name. Telangana needs to recognize and perpetrate the memory of its own icons and hence the tendency to claim a right to naming institutions based in the region. Those still upset about the change need to reconsider their stand in view of recent developments on the national front. It is reported that the Centre is seriously mulling over the proposal of renaming over 650 public schemes which bear the names of Nehru-Gandhi family members. Given its agenda of making the nation ‘Congress mukt’, the BJP government in all likelihood will go far beyond rechristening welfare schemes and target public institutions and infrastructure projects too. Already questions have been raised regarding the naming of the Shamshabad airport after Rajiv Gandhi and hundreds of other similar objections are bound to be raked up in the future. While one cannot deny the sycophancy of succeeding generations of Congress workers, who have honed the art of groveling at the feet of the Gandhi clan to perfection, a total whitewash of the family legacy would be a great injustice as both Nehru and Indira have indisputably contributed immensely to the nation.
Changing names of streets, institutions and buildings is nothing new either for Hyderabad or the country. The process began immediately after independence when replacing British era names with Indian ones was considered essential in asserting the hard earned freedom from the colonial rule. But even then, there was generally a distinction based on individual contributions which ensured that dedications to benefactors of India were left unchanged. That should have been the defining criteria for determining change, but unfortunately bigotry very often tainted decisions and resulted in unjustified sidelining of some very eminent personalities whose contributions to society are indisputable. As a result, while the Nizam was acceptable as the titular head after merger of Hyderabad with the Indian Union, the only street in the city named after him was not. The Shahrah-e Osmani thus became Jawaharlal Nehru Road, leaving one wondering as to why it could not renamed Raj Parmukh Marg if assertion of swaraj was the sole reason prompting change.
Source: The Times of India