Delhi only 100 years old?
By Dr R. Balashankar
It is disgusting and dispiriting to see the so-called celebrations marking hundred years of Delhi as capital. It is sickening at many levels.
For one, Delhi has been the seat of power for hundreds if not thousands of years. Indraprastha was the capital of the Pandavas. Subsequently it was the capital of at least nine rulers before the British made it the capital of the Raj. After Anangpal and Prithviraj Chauhan of the Tomar dynasty, successive Muslim invaders continued to reign from the various ‘cities’ they built within the large landmass identified as Delhi.
Centenary of the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi by the colonial rulers is hardly a matter for cheer. If the British were ruling today and they were spearheading the celebrations one can understand. But now, one can only believe that the present day rulers think that they are only carrying on the colonial legacy and hence the reason to rejoice!
A massive ad. campaign has been mounted by the Delhi government, with support from the central Ministry for Culture to mark the event. It only translates into the spending of huge public money, the tax payers’ sweat, going into the purses of a few. The media is one of the biggest beneficiaries in the form of huge advertisements. The present campaign to celebrate the ‘happy hundredth birthday’ was prompted by a Delhi-based newspaper. The date is hardly of any historic significance. And, then, Delhi was the capital of British India whose geography was very different. It included vast areas in east and west. It was a British Delhi.
What is after all the government showcasing? The culture, cuisine and life of a tiny part of the city. The government hosted a street food festival that was supposed to reflect the old Delhi pakhwan, an area that is certainly more than a thousand years old. Then, a photo exhibition was opened which highlighted the durbar procession, colonial buildings and the old havelis. None of these represent the Delhi of today or relate to the contemporary population. At best it seems to be a longing sigh at the days of slavery, servitude and bondage. It is unfortunate that our national capital which has a archaeologically proved historicity dating back to the Mahabharata days, is claiming a lifespan of just a hundred years.
Ever since the UPA government came to power, it has assiduously tried to cultivate an image of India sans its Hindu moorings, ethos and strength. Whether it was Commonwealth, foreign dignitaries’ visit or celebrating various anniversaries, the emphasis is not on a shared identity but an isolated, exclusive image. The calendar of 2011, prepared by the Delhi government did not have a single Hindu site.
World over nations are searching for their roots, going hundreds of years back to reclaim the heritage. For instance a recent book Rome Day One, by Andrea Carandini reconstructs the building of Rome in second millennium B.C. Several such books tracing the history, centuries back are being written in the West. History is celebrated and recollected to inspire national sentiment and pride. Loathsome memories are best forgotten than resurrected and paraded. The politicians, it seems, are not connected with the people or their history.