Erasing names of politicians

B L Saraf
What started in year 2018 has caught up with the rulers in Delhi as a choice fashion It began with the omission of Jawaharlal Nehru’s (free India’s first Prime Minister) portrait from the poster which the Central Government released as a part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahatsav. In 2023, the BJP’s Central Government has removed his name from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) and rechristened it as Prime Ministers Museum and Library (PMML). The move is explained as giving space to other Prime Ministers as against apportioning whole to one person. Nehru is not a mere one. His contribution to the cause of India’s freedom struggle and then putting country on a road to the political and economic enlightenment , at a time when countries around India chose the other way , can hardly be minimized.
Many a knowledgeable have expressed views on the move. Reacting to the change in name Dr Karan Singh said in a handout ” NMML should be allowed to continue because it was already well established as an institution of national and international reputation ” To remember past Prime Ministers and accord them due place and honor is a welcome gesture which, however, could have been done without a name change
The authorities ought to have followed what another great son of the nation, Atal Bihari Vajpayee , had done on finding Nehru’s portrait missing from the gallery of his office when he was Foreign Minister of India Vajpayee himself narrated the episode in the Parliament which may bear a reference. He told that soon after he became Minister of External Affairs in the Janata Party Government, in 1977, he went to his office in South Block and was astonished to see portrait of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru missing from the gallery. He would see the portrait hung on the wall as and when he , as an opposition leader, had an occasion to visit South Block Vajpayee went to say that he enquired from his staff about the missing portrait of Nehru but didn’t get an answer Next day, however, he was pleased to see the portrait restored to its original place Lamenting on the prevalent state of politics in the country Vajpayee asked ” should such sentiments germinate Kya Is Bhavna Ki Kadra Hai Kya Is Desh Mey Ye Bhavna Panpe ” A B Vajpayee speech PTI The Economic Times updated 17 August 2018.
When to run down Nehru is flavor of the season , rarely , can one find somebody listening to an objective assessment of the man and his policies One has to evaluate his works in an unbiased manner and not allow prejudices overcome the preferences And for that sense of history is essential No doubt Kashmir has had centuries old spiritual and civilizational relations with the Indian mainland but , as argued earlier , their present Constitutional relationship is embedded in a camaraderie – partly personal partly ideological- between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah which blossomed in early 1937.
‘Nationalists’ hold Nehru guilty of introducing a conditionality in the state’s accession with the Union , by resting its finality on the wishes of people of the state To repeat , V P Menon in his book Integration of The Indian States and S. Gopal in book Jawaharlal Nehru VOL 11 exonerate him of the charge According to them it was Mountbatten who insisted that accession of J&K should be conditional on the will of the people being ascertained by plebiscite after the raiders had been driven out of the state.
The other person who has come in the firing line of ‘ nationalists ‘ is the one ( Sheikh Abdullah ) who stood by India’s cause at the crucial juncture of Sub- Continent’s bloodied history He is facing the same treatment, in J&K, which is being meted out to Jawaharlal Nehru in the mainland To many a ‘nationalist , his prefix Sher – e -Kashmir is anathema , so they want to erase it from the institutions The process is reportedly on Former Chief Minister – Omar Abdullah and Sheikh’s grandson – while responding to a question of erasing of Sher-e – Kashmir from various institutions told reporters that the Government can remove the name of Sher -e -Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah from the buildings in Jammu and Kashmir but not from the hearts of the People Contemporary history of the Sub -Continent supports him.
It is worth a mention : during the ongoing hearing of the case pertaining to the neutralization of Art 370 advocate Kapil Sibal quoted some passages of a speech made by Sheikh Abdullah in the Constitution Assembly of J & K and left out some portion Where upon Hon CJI D Y Chanderchud took upon himself to read (with visible appreciation ) the full text of the speech and commented in the Court that Sheikh Abdullah had a vision in 1951 which the world is talking about today Hon CJ I quoted from the Sheikh’s speech made in support of J&K acceding to India (in Sheikh’s words )” the most powerful argument which can be advanced in her (Pakistan’s ) favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim state and big majority of our people being Muslims must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim State is only a camouflage it is screen to dupe the common man so that he cannot clearly see Pakistan is a feudal state in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in a power Our interests can be protected in India where land reforms were taking place ” Praising Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Hon CJI asked Sibal to look at the far sight of the speaker ( Sheikh ).
If we exclude Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah from the Indian discourse on Kashmir what remains there for the nationalists to the celebrate? Jawaharlal’s contribution to the nation lies in strengthening the democratic institutions, creation of human resource and the technological advancements made in Space and Atomic energy spheres.
BJP led Central Government has done many good things for the betterment of the people Having been in power for nearly ten years and most likely to retain it ,at least , for another five years after May, 2024 , people expect it to do many more such things It is time that Government concentrates more on the good job it is doing than be on a perpetual mode of Nehru bashing We must discard the tendency of canonizing leaders as gods one day and demolishing them as devils the other day.
Pakistan too has succumbed to the disease. A process is on to erase Ex- Prime Minister Imran Khan’s name from the record After the Deep State put his PTI to the hammer and nearly decimated it , the Pakistan Cricket Board took the cue and omitted his name from the achievements Pak cricket team has made under his stewardship Imran was found missing from the list of cricketing greats released days ago on the eve of country’s independence day.
Anyway, there is nothing sacrosanct in a name Shakespeare told us long back “What is in a name? That which we call a rose: By any other name would smell as sweet”
(The author is former Principal District and Sessions Judge)