Delhi/ New Delhi: A history, 1947 onwards
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The Nehru years, 1950s and 1960s
Even when we are in a tearing hurry to change the names of roads, some are considered sacrosanct. Surprisingly, many of them have a stamp of Jawaharlal Nehru’s worldview.
For example, when a diplomatic enclave was being developed in New Delhi, Nehru suggested that it should be named Chanakyapuri after Chanakya, who wrote Arthashastra, a classic treatise on polity. Surely, Chanakya was a philosopher, an economist, a strategic thinker and much more. And Nehru was deeply influenced by the work of Chanakya.
Even when we are in a tearing hurry to change the names of roads, some are considered sacrosanct. Surprisingly, many of them have a stamp of Jawaharlal Nehru’s worldview. For example, when a diplomatic enclave was being developed in New Delhi, Nehru suggested that it should be named Chanakyapuri after Chanakya, who wrote Arthashastra , a classic treatise on polity. Surely, Chanakya was a philosopher, an economist, a strategic thinker and much more. And Nehru was deeply influenced by the work of Chanakya.
Perhaps not many people know that Nehru wrote an essay in October 1937 in The Modern Review under the pen name of Chanakya. An avid reader of ancient history, the life and times of Chandragupta Maurya was also close to Nehru’s heart.
Chandragupta had laid the foundations of the Mauryan empire. He was Chanakya’s chosen man who built the empire brick by brick. Naturally, the road where the UAE embassy and American schools are located in New Delhi is named Chandragupta Marg.
Writes BR Nanda in Jawaharlal Nehru: Rebel and Statesman : “If Chanakya chose Chandragupta to build India, it was [Mahatma] Gandhi who, slightly before his assassination, wrote to Nehru:
‘Bahaut varsh jio aur Hind ke Jawahar bane raho. [Live for a long time and be the jewel of India]’ If Chandragupta lived up to the expectations of Chanakya, Nehru carried forward Gandhi’s ideals in a substantive manner.”
According to Madan Thapliyal, former director (information) of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), “Nehru used to suggest new names for buildings and roads as well. It was he who had suggested the names of Ashok Hotel and Vigyan Bhawan. Both were built in 1956. He even suggested the new name for Albuquerque Road as Tees January Marg, where Birla House was there and Gandhiji was killed.”
There is an interesting story related to the making of the Ashok Hotel and Vigyan Bhawan almost simultaneously. It is said Nehru was attending the Unesco summit in Paris in 1955. There he requested the governing body of the summit that India would like to host the 1956 meet in New Delhi. That offer was accepted.
However, when Nehru returned from Paris, his advisers told him that New Delhi had no hall to host such a big meet and hardly any hotel to accommodate several heads of states. Stunned, Nehru asked his staff to identify vacant spaces in New Delhi for a new hall and a hotel without any delay. Thus, both Ashok Hotel and Vigyan Bhawan came up in record time. And now moving to Panchsheel Park, located near the Chinese embassy, which reflects Nehru’s unflinching commitment for the thought of the very rich word ‘Panchsheel’.
When the diplomatic area was coming up, Nehru asked the NDMC to name the key road after the word ‘Panchsheel’. It has a deep meaning, asking for a new set of principles for the conduct of international relations that would reflect the aspirations of all nations to co-exist and prosper together in peace and harmony.
In search of peace
Even though China has never followed the five principles of Panchsheel in letter and spirit, the chord that was struck in 1954 still rings true in a world yet seeking the lodestar that will guide it into the harbour of peaceful co-existence.
Panchsheel, or the five principles of peaceful co-existence, were first formally enunciated in the agreement on trade and intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954. The agreement stated in its preamble that the two governments “have resolved to enter into the present agreement based on the following principles: 1. mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, 2. mutual non-aggression, 3. mutual non-interference, 4. equality and mutual benefit, and 5. peaceful co-existence”.
Even after his demise on May 27, 1964, many roads were named after his comrades or those whom he adored. As he was a friend of Africa, there is a road named after Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, in Chanakyapuri. Both were at the forefront of the Non-Aligned Movement. The two leaders also enjoyed a close friendship. Nkrumah had even visited India in 1961 and had a fruitful dialogue with Nehru. Nkrumah was also influenced by Gandhi’s views on non-violence. It is said that when he was paying homage at Rajghat, he was in tears. Later, he told the media there that his life had changed once he read about Mahatma Gandhi. And finally, there are roads named after two world citizens — Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary — in the diplomatic area. It is a well-known fact that Nehru was very impressed when they had conquered Mt Everest and even congratulated them on their mind-boggling feat. Can anybody even think of giving new names to roads named after great heroes? Not at all.