January 31, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether renaming Mughal Gardens was necessary. We also look at the boost for the semiconductor sector in Gujarat, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Mughal Gardens: Should the name have been changed?
Imagine you’re one of those who look forward to visiting the glorious gardens that ornament the rear end of India’s Presidential residence. You used to call it the Mughal Gardens, but now you get to call it the Amrit Udyan, i.e., the garden of holy nectar. Does it matter to you?
On January 28th, the Rashtrapati Bhavan gardens, popularly referred to as the Mughal Gardens, were renamed ‘Amrit Udyan’. The Centre’s move triggered sharp reactions – some lauded it as a long overdue decision while others decried it as an attempt to rewrite history. Let’s walk through the crossroads where experts and politicians seem to diverge.
The politics of names has occurred in various waves in India. Like many other postcolonial nations, India resorted to officially changing anglicised or colonial-era names after independence. Hard on the centre’s heels, state governments used the practice of naming to assert their linguistic and regional identities. Think Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Kolkata.
Name-changing usually receives local support because it is read as an attempt to relieve the colonial hangover and empower vernacular pronunciations. These changes are usually enacted as ways of counterhegemonic resistance to the legacy of colonialism.
But does Amrit Udyan fall under any of these to be deemed a justified change?
On the rechristening, President Droupadi Murmu’s deputy press secretary said that ‘Amrit Udyan’ is a collective stamp on the gardens of the Bhavan to celebrate 75 years of independence and ‘Amrit Kaal’.
Members of the opposition have very clearly and creatively rubbished the move. TMC, BSP, and CPI leaders have pronounced it useless in the face of real challenges like unemployment and inflation that the BJP-ruled centre refuses to tackle. A TMC minister recently tweeted about when one can expect the official renaming of the Mughlai paratha!
Contrarily, BJP leaders have been jubilant at the prospect of ushering in a new age without the “reminders of slavery”. Suvendu Adhikari would now appreciate the effacement of all Mughal names because, according to his knowledge, they killed many Hindus and destroyed temples. Never mind that in pre-modern India, Hindu rulers and emperors frequently killed and destroyed places of worship too.
Mughal garden is a moniker for gardens designed on the Persian and Mughal traditions, particularly the Charbaugh structure (a four-grid garden). Edward Lutyens designed the Presidential gardens in the image of Mughal and English flower gardens. Inspirations ranged from the Mughal Gardens of Jammu and Kashmir and the Taj Mahal gardens to the miniature paintings of India and Persia.
True to its name, the Bhavan’s main garden has two water channels intersecting at right angles and dividing the landscape into a grid. The garden’s colonial origins flavoured it with a syncretism of Mughal, Persian, and British architectural traditions.
In isolation, the name-changing seems pretty innocuous, right? But the incumbent government’s naming or renaming of public spaces and cities usually attracts much scrutiny because of its saffronized nature.
The current practice of naming involves selectively picking and changing Mughal and Urdu names while saturating political and cultural vocabularies with sankstritized terms. PM Modi and other BJP leaders have recurrently denounced the Mughals as foreign invaders.
So, when the Centre renames the Mughal garden, BJP leaders and media outlets celebrate it as a victory of India over colonialism, slavery, and the Mughals.
Historians frequently object to this nationalist rhetoric because it likens colonial rule to the Mughal dynasty in India, two qualitatively different authorities of political and cultural power. Political scientists describe the present selective name-changing as an attempt to other India’s Muslim minority and whitewash India’s Islamic heritage.
Let’s see how these arguments play out in the current debate.
VIEW: A rose will smell as sweet if called by other names
What’s in a name? Calling the Rashtrapati Bhavan gardens ‘Amrit Udyan’ will not expunge its Persian and Mughal heritage. The gardens were never officially named Mughal Gardens. Instead, they were popularly referred to as Mughal gardens because of their architectural legacy. To call the gardens ‘Amrit Udyan’ will not alter the Charbaugh structure. Nor will it remove the lotus fountains and flowers that adorn it.
The new name is a shared reference for all the Presidential gardens. While the gardens were originally an amalgam of Mughal and English landscaping styles, several new gardens have since been planted, such as the Herbal-I and Herbal-II gardens, Tactile Garden, Bonsai Garden, and Arogya Vanam. Accordingly, the name Mughal garden seems unfit to describe the new inclusions and script the garden has acquired.
Renaming places to win popular support has several precedents, not just in India but across the globe. Naming and renaming places is a proven tactic for winning majoritarian favour that many parties have exploited, so why should the BJP waver? The change is a win-win for the ruling party – it appeases its Hindu support base by detaching the gardens from their Mughal origins.
Concurrently, it empowers right-wing organisations like the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha and creates a public impetus for similar practices. With elections scheduled for all of this year and the next, the BJP will leave no stone unturned to ensure an electoral victory.
COUNTERVIEW: It does more harm than good
It may be that naming and renaming is a low-hanging populist measure that begets electoral gains, but eating that fruit at the risk of instigating divisions in an already polarised society goes against the spirit of democracy. BJP leaders and Hindutva supporters have been empowered, if they weren’t already, to spread obfuscated versions of history.
The basic premise of the move as a counter to India’s colonial legacy is problematic. The Mughal rule was not “colonial”, rather, they assimilated into the culture. Lutyens’ design of the Presidential residence and its gardens is a testament to this syncretism. It incorporates many features of Indo-Saracenic architecture, like the Chajja, the chattri, and the jali, with the Edwardian Baroque.
The argument that detaching the name of the gardens from its Mughal legacy does not change much is wanting. It doesn’t alter the architectural design but conceals the Mughals’ contribution to India’s cultural, political, and architectural imaginary. Besides, the simultaneous Hinduization of public spaces, secular practices (remember the Ashok Stambh inauguration?), and the erasure of Mughal names form a series of attempts to delegitimise India’s diverse cultural and political heritage.
Changing Mughal names resonates with the core principles of Hindutva nationalism – if the names are cleansed from public memory, the cultural, political, economic, and religious contribution of all that is associated with Islam will be forgotten. And voila. History is rewritten according to the whims and fancies of prevailing nationalist sentiments.
- Rajpath Renamed ‘Kartavya Path’: Delhi’s Tryst With Name Changes Continues Under PM Modi – Outlook
- Mughal Gardens will now be called as Amrit Udyan – The Hindu
- The reason for renaming places – The Hindu
- What Political Violence in Ancient India Tells Us About Our Past and Present – The Wire
- Patterns of commemorative street and place renaming in India’s two mega-cities: Mumbai and New Delhi – Linguistics Vanguard
- Ideology in the linguistic landscape: Towards a quantitative approach – Discourse and Society
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Centre was right in renaming the Mughal gardens.
b) The Centre was wrong in renaming the Mughal gardens.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
With the Adani Crisis, Is Narendra Modi’s House of Cards at Risk?
For the Left:
BJP’s olive branch to Pasmandas a momentous first in India. The three factors behind it: AMU VC
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
PMSS fee controversy (Punjab) – Many colleges are still waiting for fees from students because the state government is sitting on its share. The number of students enrolled under the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme (PMSS) has overtaken last year’s number. It will likely increase as admissions are still open. The government hasn’t released its share to be transferred directly to students. One official said ₹111 crores has been released by the finance department and will soon be transferred.
Why it matters: Under the scheme, 60% of the amount is from the Centre and the remaining by the state. The Centre will release the amount only once the state does for its share. So far this academic year, 2.44 lakh students have applied for the scheme. In professional courses, admissions are open throughout the year. For the state, the total liability of the scheme is about ₹380 crores annually.
Budget hopes (Kerala) – As the budget approaches, Kerala is expecting announcements on sanctioning the SilverLine project and the long-pending demand to set up an AIIMS in Kozhikode. The state also expects the introduction of the Vande Bharat trains, an increase in the share of GST revenue and a boost in its industrial sector for manufacturing electric scooter batteries and vaccine components.
Why it matters: In the pre-budget discussion, the state asked the Centre for a rehabilitation package for expatriates who returned during the pandemic. Kerala is hoping the budget will include an announcement on the package. Concerning GST revenue share, the state wants it to be a 60-40 ratio compared to the existing 50-50.
JCC-J gearing up for polls (Chhattisgarh) – The Janata Congress Chhatisgarh – Jogi (JCC-J) is gearing up for assembly polls in the state this November with candidates in about three dozen segments. The party is currently organising the Jogi Jan Adhikar Yatra, with the second phase beginning in February. The party’s focus is only on seats where more than 30,000 votes were polled in their favour in the 2018 elections.
Why it matters: The JCC-J is the state’s only regional party. It’s not keen on fielding candidates in all 90 constituencies. The party currently has three MLAs in the 90-member assembly after the death of two of its legislators. In 2018, the party allied with the BSP and won seven seats.
Boost for the semiconductor sector (Gujarat) – US-based data storage device maker Micron Technology is in discussions with the state to invest ₹75,000 crores. The company will likely get at least a 3 lakh square metre parcel of land between Ahmedabad and Sanand. The company will set up a manufacturing facility for data storage devices. Representatives from the company visited the state six months ago.
Why it matters: Gujarat is the first state to announce a dedicated semiconductor policy with subsidies for land procurement, capital investment, fixed water tariffs, etc. This has helped lure semiconductor companies to the state. Previously, Vedanta-Foxconn announced a $20 billion investment in the state for India’s first semiconductor fab unit, a display fab unit, and an assembly and testing unit at Dholera.
BJP’s election alliances (Tripura) – With elections in Tripura and a couple of other northeastern states coming up, the BJP is continuing with its 2018 electoral arrangements. In the state and Nagaland, the BJP has retained its old allies, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), respectively. The BJP agreed to a seat-sharing agreement with the IPFT.
Why it matters: The agreement with the IPFT was a surprise. The IPFT agreed to contest five seats compared to the BJP’s 55. Compared to 2018, it’s fewer when the IPFT contested nine tribal seats in Tripura. With its IPFT alliance, it managed to end the 25-year Left rule in the state. In other states like Meghalaya, it’ll go solo. In Nagaland, the BJP will align with the NDPP.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
60% – Job vacancies in the Indian IT sector declined by a record 60% year-on-year this month. This time last year, the number of job vacancies was more than 2.7 lakh. Now, it’s just over 1.12 lakh.