On Tuesday, the historic Mughalsarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh, was officially renamed as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay station. The move was cleared by the Uttar Pradesh government last year and this station was chosen because Upadhyay was found dead near the tracks under mysterious circumstances on February 11, 1968.
The station renaming exercise was reportedly undertaken to revive the legacy of Upadhyay, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member and co-founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the precursor to the Bharatiya Janata Party. This ties in with an ongoing challenge for the ruling BJP – the party was not in existence during India’s freedom struggle and by various accounts, its ideological predecessors did not play an active part in that movement. As a result, RSS leaders have not occupied the same place in India’s contemporary history as Indian National Congress leaders and others attached to the freedom movement.
That the BJP has its task cut out in its ongoing effort to elaborate its historical moorings was proven by the reaction of Twitter users to the Mughalsarai renaming exercise, with many raising the question: Who was Deen Dayal Upadhyay?
Reiterating William Shakespeare’s profound question, several Twitter users also mused what difference the name of the station would make to real challenges facing the Railway, like poor infrastructure and amenities. Twitter users also questioned the logic behind choosing to honour some leaders over others.
The BJP’s attempts to rename several structures named after Mughal rulers – for instance, Aurangzeb Road was changed to APJ Abdul Kalam Road in 2015 and Akbar Fort was changed to Ajmer Fort – as well as minimise the contribution of that Empire in history textbooks also prompted Twitter users to wonder whether they would go after Mughlai food next.
Or perhaps, it would be easier for the government to name everything after Deen Dayal Upadhyay.