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Supreme court denies plea asking for renaming of cities named under foreign invaders, says erasing history could lead to repeating history

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A Supreme Court bench on Monday; February, 27, 2023, denied a plea seeking for the renaming of certain cities and historical structures that were named after, or under, foreign rulers and their reign in India.

The decision made by the two-judge bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna was heavily focused on the grounds that the petition, if supported, could in the long term create a sense of alienation amongst a certain community. The bench iterated to petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, that the act of reversing and renaming is a selective erasal of the country’s history, citing permitting the act is erasing an aspect of a religious community’s history and traditions that the sites symbolised, and is now a integral part of the community and residents’ cultural history.

The presiding bench also shed light on the minuscule level of positive developments the renaming would have, if not nonexistent. Whereas the negative aspect is immense, as the bench took the support of history to attest how the division of people on religious grounds and the necessity to identify oneself in exclusive senses during and before the British Raj has led to shackles that continue to cripple the country.

The Court remarked that the State and Law couldn’t be seen favoring or supporting a group or individual or their lack thereof, India as a country is Secular in its nature to peacefully house all the numerous, diverse and colourful groups and communities inside its borders.

The bench said that “a country cannot remain a prisoner of the past. India is wedded to the rule of law, secularism, constitutionalism, of which Article 14 stands out as guaranteeing both equality and fairness in State actions”.

After being denied a ruling in his favour, Upadhyay sought to withdraw and approach the government, which the Court did not grant him the permission to. To his rebuttals, Justice Nagarathna said, “Let us not break society with such kinds of petitions, please have the country in mind, not any religion”.

The court said that the “history of any nation cannot haunt the present and future generations…to the point that succeeding generations become prisoners of the past.” Underlining that only fraternity will lead to unity, the court said “the golden principle of fraternity, again enshrined in Preamble, is of greatest importance”.

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