We could put it down to midsummer madness but it seems to have become a trend the whole year round. Even so, the latest battle royale over renaming the Capital’s gracious boulevard Akbar Road after Maharana Pratap is worrying coming as it does from the minister of state for external affairs VK Singh.
The minister who, one would assume would have his hands full looking after the affairs of a fractious neighbourhood and changes across the world, seems more preoccupied by righting “historic wrongs” and giving the kings of yore their rightful place in public spaces. This has led to a situation where everyone who is really no one has jumped into the fray with their two bit worth on why certain names get more prominence than others and so on. Alongside we have an almighty kerfuffle over the chanting of Om and Vedic mantras as part of the celebration of the upcoming International Day of Yoga.
While the ministry concerned has said the chanting is not compulsory, it is being seen as an imposition and an attempt by the ruling party to usurp the whole idea of yoga. Muslim clerics have got into the act saying such a practice goes against their faith, and the issue has acquired ugly overtones. The renaming of roads is a passion with many in our political class. It is difficult to understand this obsession with cosmetic changes when the country is confronted with real problems, the drought being one of them.
This focus on what are non-issues detracts from the need for addressing our infrastructure deficiencies, economic problems, environmental shortfalls and so on. If the zeal for naming structures and places after great men of history is so overwhelming, then surely there are enough in the making to cover the whole gamut of names. To see this inordinate amount of time being spent on renaming and chanting suggests that India is not serious about business, not an image we want to convey either to stakeholders within or to the world at large.
If we were adding to the greater common good by renaming roads or public structures, then it would make sense. Here, these efforts are only making a fractured and fragile society even more polarised. Today, yoga is seen as a unique contribution from India to the world. This unseemly wrangling only diminishes its value. As it does our value as a nation.