Is Narendra Modi’s ‘Dutty way’ a sign of moving away from his duties?

Encouraging citizens to be obedient is an important part of dictatorial government. It was first introduced by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. Since then, governments that have neglected the rights of ordinary people have often reiterated the importance of citizens’ duties rather than their duties.

The Rajpath located in the capital Delhi has been renamed as Duty Path. The poster related to this change was unveiled on September 8, 2022. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: New Delhi’s Rajpath connecting Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate has become the new target of the BJP’s passion for renaming places, henceforth known as ‘Dutty Path’.

Changing the name of a road that is not built with good intentions is not just a change on paper. This road is part of Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Project Central Vista’ and he will be able to clearly explain his agenda in this regard.

Meanwhile, the unelected Municipal Council of New Delhi, consisting mainly of BJP members, in a special meeting on September 7, approved the proposal to change the name.

Known as Kingsway during British rule, this road was named Rajpath after independence. Together with the Janpath that divides it, formerly known as the Queensway, these two avenues represent the social compact of the new republic, whose sovereignty was in the hands of its citizens. These sovereign citizens freed the Central Vista from the restrictions that the previous Nizam had imposed on it. Their sprawling lawns now belonged to them, day or night, for picnicking, playing, walking, and eating ice cream. They were not bound by any official order or limit, just the right time and some means to come here was enough. However, this is all coming to an end now. There is little room for free citizens in the way of duty.

In his Independence Day speech last month, Prime Minister Modi brushed aside mounting demands on the government to fulfill this social compact and instead emphasized the people’s duty-bound performance.

Encouraging citizens to be obedient is an important part of dictatorial government and was first included in the Indian Constitution by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. Governments that have since faced criticism for disregarding people’s rights have often reiterated the importance of citizens’ duties. The renaming of Rajpath to ‘Duttavya Path’ is symbolic of the official effort to prioritize duties over rights. With this nomenclature will also come a kind of purification, in which the ice cream sellers will not be able to bring their cart there, it will be forbidden to have a picnic on the lawn.

There is also a dangerous aspect to this name change. In a democratic system, rights are seen as claims against power, which, according to the constitution, are the government’s responsibility to ensure that citizens are not deprived of them.

Thus, the name “Rajpath” can be seen as a symbol of the fact that the government and its institutions located around this road were legitimized only insofar as they preserved the rights of the common people. On the other hand, the new paradigm of emphasis on ‘duty’ places the burden of governance or governance on the common citizen. Because of this, the blame for the problems falls on them and the government’s attention is diverted from responsibility.

From changing the name to changing the appearance

Of course, the first name change exercise also had a political agenda. Aurangzeb Road became APJ Abdul Kalam Road in 2015. Hindutva fanatics now want to rename Akbar Road and Humayun Road. Race Course Road, where the Prime Minister’s official residence is located, became Lok Kalyan Marg, though its suitability was questioned by many.

The teenage Murti Bhavan, home to the Nehru Memorial Museum and library, has been converted into a ‘Prime Minister’s Museum’ in the shape of an ugly spaceship in defiance of the country’s heritage laws. Earlier, Pragati Maidan had witnessed similar sabotage, when the Modi government demolished the historic Hall of Nations pavilion and other structures to build a massive building that looks like a huge stack of containers.

In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has renamed the historic city of Allahabad to Prayagraj, and more such changes are to be made in all states where the party is in power, especially in UP, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. There is another criterion for the name change, where BJP leaders have equated the reference to “1200 years of slavery” given by Narendra Modi in 2014 to the Mughal era or other Muslim names with “symbols of colonialism”.

‘The end of the era of rulers’

Unnamed officials told news agency PTI that the renaming of Rajpath as “Durty Path” is a “message to the ruling class that the era of rulers is over”. His claim doesn’t seem to stand up to the government’s growing control over food, speech, laws, etc. of the town The question of the common people is different, but Narendra Modi has also changed the BJP organization into ‘ruler’s raj’, while the wealth of ‘rectencies’ is increasing enormously under his nose.

When it comes to urban design, India is different because government ministers and senior officials are given large bungalows in the center of the national capital at public expense. In fact, by planning the Prime Minister’s official residence on Raisina Hill, Modi has reinforced the same idea of ​​the “power of the ruler over his ‘subjects'” that he did during colonial rule in this city.

In her 2018 book Negotiating Cultures: Delhi’s Architecture and Planning from 1912 to 1962, Pilar Maria Girieri records how Delhi’s center of power is Raisina Hill:

Accommodation followed traditional and accepted rules of power: Europeans with more prestige and higher status were closest to Raisina Hill, and so did their proximity to (Raisina Hill) as the social status of the residents. Indians who did not work with the government system lived in settlements far away from Raisina Hill, and sometimes even New Delhi.

This accommodation privilege separates the “ruler” from the “subject” and reflects the inequality of the capital, not the street names. The image below shows a 1920 plan of the layout of bungalows in New Delhi by the city’s colonial planners. Today, although the names of the streets and the skin color of the occupants have changed, the bungalows and the class of people who live in them have remained.

Plan of New Delhi drawn up in 1920. (Credits: National Archives of India. Via Pilar Maria Guerrieri)

It is not about Modi moving away from these ugly symbols of colonialism, or asking his ministers (like other democracies) to find their own houses and make better use of these buildings by “the people”. Modi has only ‘homework’ for the people. The rest of the city is for the authority and its officials, who will decide when, where and how many citizens—whose duty is to obey the authority—can meet.

(Click here to read this article in English.)

Categories: India, Politics, Special

Tagged as: BJP, Central Vista Avenue, Central Vista Redevelopment Project, colonialism, Democracy, India Gate, Janpath, Narendra Modi, News, PM Residence, Raisina Hills, rajpath, Name Change, The Wire

Leave a Comment