Yes, a large number of British names of our cities and streets have been Indianised. Also,
a large number of statues installed by the Britsh rulers have been removed from their
pedestals and stored in godowns. I get the feeling that many of your friends consider such
a change to be an act of nationalism; some kind of a patriotic gesture. Let me tell you,
they are wrong. You are a Gujarati like me. Yet, you need to write to me in English but
when it comes to names you want to abolish them.When it comes to the language, you are a
slave. Is that not ridiculous?
Like most of our fellow citizens, you are not aware. So, let me tell
you bluntly that what you have suggested is nothing short of disgraceful, if not also
shameful. I know you have no objection to a central street in New Delhi being called
Aurangzeb Road although the man desecrated hundreds of temples and built mosques in their
place. The Gyanvapi masjid is a constant reminder of the Kashi Vishwanath temple which was
destroyed. The idgah at Mathura was built on the sacred land where once existed a
temple commemorating the birth of Sri Krishna.How many hearts are there in India in whom
Shiva and Krishna do not reside? Yet, we are scared to protest against this vandalism.
This double standard was recently pointed out to me by my colleague
K.R. Phanda. I felt uneasy when the statues in Calcutta were uprooted and some of them
transferred to the compound of the Victoria Memorial. For one, most of them were beautiful
pieces of statuary. For another, they had been installed independently of any destruction
or humiliation. For long years; my stomach has turned at the thought of our temples being
desecrated. I first heard about such deserations in 1942 when I was five years old. I had
accpmpanied my parents from Morbi (north of Rajkot) on a holiday to Junagadh from where we
went to see Somnath. I vividly remember my father telling me about the invasion by Mahmud
Ghazni, his brewing the Shiv ling and carrying away the treasures of
Somnath. Little wonder, therefore, that I happened to be present at Ayodhya on 6 December
1992. Despite all this, the double standard between our attitude to the invaders from
Central Asia and our reaction to the rulers from the British isles is so vastly
contradictory. The fact of contradiction escaped me till recently.
There is no doubt that the British exploited us. Very subtly they
transferred the surpluses of the Indian economy. They imported raw materials from India at
comparatively low prices. What was converted into finished goods was exported and sold in
India at higher than normal prices. Thus the wealth generated in our country was skimmed
off to enrich Britain. Call it colonialism, call it imperialism; it was
exploitation.Having said that, it is difficult to Link of any physical damage done by the
British to our country.
True, there was Thomas Babington Macaulay who did all he could to
delink us from our cultural roots by introducing education in English.And Sir Charles
Trevelyan did what he could to plant western civilisation in India. That was considered a
distortion of our civilization.This was compensated by the gift of unity which the English
language brought about. Or else, it is difficult to imagine a Gujarati talking to a
Bengali or a Malayalee conversing with a Punjabi in any other language.The spread of Hindi
did not gain momentum until the advent of the films and the promotion of the language
The British did not have a strategic plan to divide India. I hold no
brief for the British but I hate humbug. The British founded and helped to build all the
four top metropolises of our country. The names of three of them have been changed.
Evidently, their erstwhile names were offending our national pride. Calcutta was founded
in 1690 by Job Charnock, out of three villages called Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalikata.
The history of Calcutta and how it em is widely known.
Bombay was a fishing village for nearly 200 years till the end of the
fifteenth century. Thereafter the Portuguese forced it out of the hands of Sultan Bahadur
Shah of Gujarat. In 1549, the village was given inperpetuity to the famous Portuguese
botanist Dr. Garcia Da Orta for a sum of Rs.537/-. In 1616, the growing village was given
as a marriage dower by the King of Portugal to King Charles II of England for marrying his
sister, Catherine of Braganza. The British take over of Bombay proved lucky; the village
grew into one of world's great metropolises.
Madras was another fishing village called Madraspatnam where the
British East India Company built a trading post in 1640. By 1652, Fort St. George was
recognised as a presidency by the Company.Thereafter Madras did not look back. In 1911,
the British Government decided to build a new capital for its Indian empire on Raisina
Hill, Delhi. This led to the founding of New Delhi whose name has not been changed yet.
The other three cities have become Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. The proposal to change the
name of Ahmedabad into Karnavati was also mooted but has been placed to a state of
animated suspense. Alas, if only we Hindus stuck to a single standard!