Hyderabad: Growing up, when I visited my hometown of Hyderabad, the elders never referred to Jawaharlal Nehru Road and LB Shastri Cricket Stadium by those same names. Although they held (and still hold) in high regard these two statesmen who were the architects of post-independent India, the former and the latter respectively are still referred to as Nizam Shahi Road and Fateh Maidan.
By no means do I or most of my family have a fanatic admiration for the Mughals or their separatist Asaf Jahi dynasty in the south, but Salma Farouqi’s editorial contains nuances of revisionist rhetoric that has gained momentum. over the past seven years across the country.
Right off the bat, HK Shervani’s Deccan Studies Center professor wrote: “In an era when changing the existing names of old structures, streets and settlements became the norm, the name of a particular open land, the Fateh Maidan, located in the heart of Hyderabad, has not yet been given enough thought. Fateh meaning victory and maidan meaning plain or land is a familiar place to all Hyderabadis and visitors to the city. After all, the name Fateh Maidan given by Mughal generals is a testament to the destruction of the kingdom of Qutb Shahi and the city of Haidarabad.
Aside from being ‘rebranded’ Shastri Stadium some five long decades ago, which she mentions in the next paragraph, it is just funny how this old nomenclature, officially non-existent, annoys her today. That too, when she spells out the name of the city concerned as “Haidarabad” – unless that is an archaic spelling that I am not familiar with as a non-historian.
Or is it the fact that the club attached to the stadium has not officially given up on what it considers a “nickname” that I and many other Hyderabadis – young and old – still use in parlance? Is his call to action for Hyderabadis to re-evaluate the use of what is now a “nickname?” Because, as it stands, Hyderabadis has more to fear than an old open pitch name or whether that should or shouldn’t be the name of the neighboring club.
Much of what she says about Aurangzeb’s destruction on the kingdom of Qutb Shahi, which was arguably more secular and linguistically inclusive than the Mughals and Asaf Jahis is true. In 1729, Nizam I Mir Qamaruddin Khan almost got it with harem and darbar intrigues in Delhi getting a little too out of hand. This prompted him to create his own Asaf Jahi dynasty. Yes, Aurangzeb has wreaked havoc in various aspects of Hyderabad culture. In an article for Mint-Lounge, I quoted comedian, Shugoofa magazine editor and academic Mustafa Kamal on how the Mughal expansion in the Deccan supplanted the local Deccani dialect in favor of the Chaste Farsi and Urdu from northern India. Kamal himself used the term inteshaar (meaning confusion, turmoil, worry, anxiety) to describe what followed the tragic and violent overthrow of the Qutb Shahi dynasty.
According to the book by author and lawyer Raman Raj Saxena Tazkira-e-Darbar-e-Hyderabad, Nizam I, transplanted the culture from Delhi to Hyderabad. It was not until the 1930s that Deccani began to experience a revival via scholars like Mohiuddin Qadri Zor and poets like Aejaz Hussain “Khatta” and Nazir Dehqani. It took another similar tragedy in 1686, Police Action, for some sort of rebirth of Deccani, as these humorous poets helped heal the violent process that was Hyderabad’s accession to the Indian Union. Therefore, as a native Deccani speaker whose language was relegated to home, I also don’t feel the need to (over) glorify the Gujarat-born authoritarian.
Although a historian / author of the caliber of Salma Farouqui should know that this practice of (re) naming newly conquered territories is not uniquely specific to a specific dynasty – Muslim or Hindu.
Qurratulain Hyder’s magnum opus, Aag Ka Darya, chronicles various periods in the history of (North) India. In the vein of Marquez’s 100 Years of Loneliness, there are also characters with similar characteristics and backgrounds that repeat themselves in different eras: the Mauryan Empire, the end of the Lodhi dynasty, the start of the Mughal rule and the partition of India. One of the characters is a half-Asian, half-Persian man named Kamal. He himself is a senior official of the Sultanate of Jaunpur who translates Hindu spiritual texts into Persian. He is learning Sanskrit to accomplish this task.
However, when the Lodhis overthrow the Sultanate, every part of his being is shattered. Say that the new language, the new customs, etc. caused by this new regime make him a lost soul, to put it mildly. Yet he reluctantly lives his life in the dark while further establishing himself on Indian soil. Whether Jaunpur in 1479 or Hyderabad some two centuries later, the territories of the entire subcontinent have been palimpsests on which empires and their rulers remove the linguistic, cultural and religious vestiges of previous ruling entities. That too, only to carve out new footprints.
Professor Farouqui’s anguish at the fact that the expansionist ways of Aurangzeb and his general, which were certainly not specific to the Mughals, run so deep that she still feels the need to distinguish between the Nizams clinging to a relic of the primordial power that once hovered over them before the British? And are the Hyderabadis who still utter the words “Fateh Maidan” – both for the stadium and the adjoining club which has not been “renamed” – inferior creatures to do so?
Or is this angst in the vein of a larger tendency to focus only on the worst sides of the Mughal emperors, simply because they were the bane of the powers that be?
Because for me at least, thinking more about the name of the open field or the club next door doesn’t seem like the most efficient use of my time.
Daneesh Majid is an aspiring journalist and author based in Hyderabad. His interests include language and other subjects such as Jammu and Kashmir. He writes regularly for Siasat.com.