Aurangzeb continues to lend his name to many locations across the country, despite being unceremoniously shown the door from a prominent Delhi address.
Several cities, villages, markets and localities still bear the Mughal emperor’s name even as the municipal authorities of Delhi changed the name of capital’s Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road, triggering a fierce debate over the former monarch’s place in history. Some say he was a tyrant and needs to be erased from history. Others say he should be left untouched as history is sacrosanct.
No such dilemmas though for either Aurangabad district in western Bihar bordering Jharkhand or its main town Aurangabad. The sleepy town dotted with old buildings and tardy development straddling National Highway 2 is at ease with its ties to Mughal past.
“It hardly matters what they call it. What matters is if the fortunes of Aurangabad and its people will change,” points out Suman Kumar, a college-going student. Md. Mahmood Alam, the president of the local Rotary Club, agrees, saying since the name of Aurangzeb has been associated with the place for long, it should stay that way. Changing it could hurt the sentiments of some sections, he says.
History has it that Daud Khan Qureshi, a subedar of Aurangzeb and governor of Rohtas, had named the city after the Mughal emperor.
Uttar Pradesh has several places shouldering the legacy of the Mughal emperor, including Aurangabad in Bulandshahr district, and Aurangabad Khalsa and Aurangabad Jageer – two small localities in the capital Lucknow.
Emboldened by the change in the name of Aurangzeb Road, a group of locals led by BJP corporator Ramesh Kapoor ‘Baba’ has demanded that the names of the Lucknow colonies be changed. “It is my personal view that any place associated with tyrants and cruel despots should be changed,” he says. However, long-time residents Kamla Yadav and her husband Thakur Prasad, say the names never bothered the locals. It is their home and they love it, they say.
Some historians, however, say the two Lucknow localities are “untainted” by the Mughal emperor. Aurangabad means one who adds reputation to the throne, not the king himself, says Yogesh Praveen.
The BJP-led government in Maharashtra has no such doubts about the origin of the name of its own Aurangabad – a city best known for nearby tourist attractions like Ajanta and Ellora -- and is pushing to change the name of the city to Sambhaji Nagar after Shivaji’s eldest son. Though banished from a Delhi road, Aurangzeb’s name is unlikely to vanish from public discourse in a hurry.
(With inputs from Patna, Lucknow and Mumbai)