Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s speech at Pratapgarh ,Rajasthan on 16 May 2015 , equating Maharana Pratap to Akbar ; few others took to the belittle Akbar as “not so great” . This should have been seen as the now banal vote-bank appeasement done by Mr. Rajnath to the people of Mewar done on Pratap Jayanti in the town that is eponymous with Maharana as this was still not the hate-speech that normally Parivar does & was exactly the same as what all politicians do.Nevertheless this created frenzy among Left-Liberal media , many ex-Hindu & Muslim Liberals were quick to bash Pratap & Rajput community as a whole. What especially the latter forgot that notwithstanding the minister’s statement ,the history of Akbar or any other Turk , Mughal rulers history would not be trashed into oblivion unlike that of Kabul Shahi or Gujjar Pratihara , as they are well documented by all -Indian historians -Muslims or non-Muslims as well as foreign historians & well presented in our elementary textbooks . The beginning of 20th century has seen many ficitious serials masquerading as historical – be it Jodha-Akbar of Indian TV series or Maharan Pratap of Sony , a trend started by Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodha-Akbar . The fact that many Rajputs -esp. Sisodias of Udaipur protested the serial Maharana Pratap on Secular grounds a year back , should also allay the fears of many like Mr. Shoaib Daniyal.
COMPETING NARRATIVES : COMMUNALY ENGINEERED OR MECHANICAL ?
But was this only Rajnath’s narrative or such narratives are quite endemic across communities ?
India as such historically was never a central entity , but only a heterogenous cluster of linguistic ,if not ethnic, cultural entities whose , cultures , languages & even boundaries continued to change with time but nevertheless they still had some continuation with their regional pasts through folklores etc.These linguistic nationalities also bonded different communities of that region , though caste(biradri) differences continued within its shade.The Durranis are seen with pride among Afghan Nationalists ,Pashtoons of KPK & some West Punjabis but resented by almost all North-West Indians. Similarly the Maratha conquest of Bengal or Rajasthan is seen differently by Marathi historians & native Bengali/Rajasthani ones .[Read :The India Ideology].
Similarly Indian Muslims of any of the Ashraf castes surmise the Turks or Mongols as central to the story of India – as people who gave India almost everything , brought an alleged egalitarianism in an otherwise caste-ridden society & thus is bound to see them as Benign native Islamic Emperors much the same way as orthodox Brahmins fulminate at the mention of Aryan Migration/Invasion Theory & assert about the millennia-old Sanskrit culture . The same might not be true for pre-Islamic communities , whose regional vernacular folklores portray them as Conquerors , not necessarily Muslims though much the same way as Dravidians argue against North Indians. Also while the Ashraf castes see Marathas ,Ahoms ,Rajputs ,Jats & Sikhs as notorious “caste-ridden” impertinent feudals that ended the Golden Islamic period, the orthodox Brahmins see coming of Muslim invaders as ecclipse of Hindu Civilization. In fact these two groups remain paranoid about their own Persian & Sanskrit cultures & history despite that Sanskrit has been injected into every aspect of North India in the form of Hindi otherwise Prakrit-origin vernaculars & Persian on the other hand too has been immortalised by the vernaculars especially in Lucknow, where Urdu has completely overshadowed the native Awadhi.
Besides , linguistic-cultures & caste , religion has played a third parameter controlling community narratives , which can be exemplified by the fact that ,say a Rajasthani Gujjar , who are Hindus or a Kahmiri Gujjar , who are all Muslims might see the Turkish Rule of Delhi differently where the former sees them as “Islamic Invaders” but the latter prides in them as “Muslims who ruled Hindustan”. A Sindhi Hindu Lohana sees bin Qasim Arab invader who destroyed the last native Sindhi Hindu kingdom but a Memon or a Khoja (both having same tribal origins as Lohanas) is bound to see bin Qasim as Harbinger of Islam & thus a great man. Afterall L K Advani & M A Jinnah both viewed bin Qasim differenly , despite being from the same caste (Jinnah’s grandfather was Gokuldas Meghji Poonja – a Hindu Lohana who converted to Nizari Ismaili sect as gratitude for the birth of his son – Jinnahbhai Poonja , hence MA Jinnah’s surname).
Apart from affecting the narratives of the same castes or language-groups across religious divided , religion also changed narratives of same communities from their pre-conversion phases. Majority of the ordinary Hindus were once converted from Jainism , Buddhism or say from some other Hindu religion but today they are bound acknowledge medieval Hindu saints over the Buddhist ones. Hardly any Hindus knew Ashoka , the Guptas or Kanishka untill recently .The same way even non-Syed non-Pathan non-Mughal Kashmiris today can acknowledge Zainul-Abideen than Lalitaditya or Shah Hamadani than Abhinavgupta. Similarly even Janjua Rajputs , an overwhelmingly Punjabi Muslims since 13th century , are bound to ignore their pre-conversion history.
This does not mean that always a difference will happen. For eg. many Muslim Rajputs particulraly Muslim Gahlots alongwith Muslim Mangniyars see Pratap as a hero ,Kashmiri Pundits too see Zainul-Abideen as their cultural symbol.
MAHARANA PRATAP : A HINDU HERO ? or RAJPUTS AS PROTECTOR OF DHARMA ?
NEITHER A HINDU HERO NOR AN INDIAN HERO
Hardly any Secularist has written on this line (except Ram Puniyani) , since ones commitment to Secularism is often measured by how much diametrically opposite to Hindutvadis you project yourself – if they eulogise , Secularists must bash & vice versa. (And I am sure after this I will be labelled a Hindu-hater by Hindutvadis & apologist by ex-Hindus) :
1) Pratap or his followers did not fashion themselves protectors of any Religion –Hinduism to the least . Moreover , was Hinduism even born before Raja Rammohun Roy .So while a non-Rajasthani Hindu fancies it as the epitome of Sanskrit culture & a non-Rajasthani Muslim cannot see it beyond Ajmer-Sharif , its real essence lies in its folk cultures shaped by the Dholis , Mangniyars , Charans & Langdas who were patronised by Rajputs & Jats- even the Muslim ones. Thus it remains superimposition of folk-deities like Ramapir , Dallibai etc. by Puranic Bhakti among Hindus or their superimposition by Perso-Arabic Sufiism. Many Rajputs too had embraced Islam , notably the Meos & Qaimkhani Chauhans. Raja Hassan Khan Mewatpati was the Meo Rajput ally of Rana Sanga against Babur. The Persian word “Hindu” was used as an antithesis to Turks ,not Muslims. And most importantly there was no pan-Indian hindu identity even conceivable. Also Rajasthani culture is negation of both Sanskrit cultures & Perso-Arabic culture.
2) Not just that Pratap’s army had Afghan contingent led by Hakim Khan Sur , but also it had SindhiSipahis -a Muslim Rajput community that is native to Mewar. In fact Rajput community , stretching from Sindh & Punjab to Bihar , Kashmir to Vindhyas , saw profound conversions into Islam. In fact even in India , significant Rajputs . So definitely Rajputs were not protector of Dharma.
3) Apart from that the so-called Rajput army was never a Rajput army as Sahane insists , it was always made up of Jats , Gujjars , Meenas , Gadadias etc. too. The same was true about Pratap Singh Sesodia’s army too. So , he alongwith Bhamasha – his Jain Prime Minister , Adivasi Bhil general Rana Poonja was instrumental in joining many native communities in resisting Expansionism , at least in the native folklores . This was not case unique to anti-Mughal or anti-Turk resistance . When Prithviraj Chauhan – the Delhi’s Imperialist sought to conquer Mahoba (a town in M.P.) , it was resisted by the native Rajputs & Gujjars of that area , even if in vain , but the heroes Ala & Udal were immortalised in Mahoba’s folksongs ,sung even today. Similarly in Marwar , Durga Das ; in Bharatpur Gokula Jat continue to be immortalised.
4) Also these communities -Rajputs , Jats , Gujjars etc. – whether non-converts (Hindus) or converts (Muslims) made this region their home as early as 3rd century AD , thus they were bound to see Turks , Mughals & even Marathas as foreigners though to different extent.
So it was not a Hindu army vs a Muslim army but a native Mewari army vs Mughal Imperialism , which too had Rajputs soldiers under it. [remember Mughals were just a generation old]. What India’s Left-Liberals of ex-Hindu & Muslim backgrounds fail to realize is that it was not Tilak or Hindutva , that these legends came into existence in native folklores . Thus it was natural for Pratap Singh Sesodia , Shivaji or Lachit Borpukan to be deified in their respective linguistic cultural regions , much the same way Zainul-abideen is in Kashmir , the Talpurs were in Sindh ,Abdali is in the conscious of Afghanistan or Abdullah Bhatti in West Punjab.These icons are seen as natives to their regions & they have been immortalised in folks such that nowhere can any “Emperor of India” displace them from the psyche of common people there (Sounds similar to even the modern prominence of regional parties over the Nationalist ones). Thus Mr. Sahane is correct that the Mughals saw Mewar as only a nuisance just as the British saw the mutineers , but for the latter in both cases it was struggle against a Foreign power. This is the same feeling that reflected in Raja Hassan Khan’s opposition to Babur & Punjab’s Abdullah Khan Bhatti’s opposition to Akbar. So it was NATIVE vs FOREIGN , for them & the village bards who immortalised them. That is a different thing that soon , the “so-called HINDU struggle against TURKS” was comfortably hijacked by HINDUTVADIS to make it into “HINDU vs MUSLIM” , as if all Muslims are Turks.
Thus even if these oral narratives , folk songs etc. existed in all Indian cultures , even if they were coopted by Hindutva & distorted for communal agendas.Then the question comes why not MAN SINGH ? The reason to which is same as to the question that why Kashmiri Muslims love Maqbool Bhat & not the Kashmiri policemen seving the Hindu-dominated Gov. of India — the reason is parochial & impertinent today but was highly relevant among people of the past .
Thus Pratap is a Rajasthani hero & Shivaji a Marathi hero , none of them are HINDU heroes nor Indian heroes.
INDIAN NATIONALIST HISTORIOGRAPHY : HINDU & MUSLIM NATIONALISM
SO YES HE LIKE GOKULA JAT , DURGADAS RATHORE ,and most importantly RAJA HASSAN KHAN (who sadly has been forgotted by all ) PRATAP was a RAJASTHANI HERO, NEITHER HINDU NOR INDIAN. Afterall the idea of India was gestated by the British Imperialists , Orientalists & the Indian middle-class during Independence struggle, particularly the bhadralok Thus usage of Pratap outside Rajasthan or Shivaji outside Maharashtra are only symptomatic to the accretion of Indian Hindu identity. But it was initiated by Indian Nationalists to promulgate Nationalism (mostly Hindus) among their respective nationalities .Similarly , it should also not be forgotten that if Pratap had no historical-cultural link with a Bengali Hindu or a Kannadiga Hindu , so did Akbar or any Emperors of Delhi -Mughals,Turks or Rajputs. In fact the cultural impingement of the rulers of Delhi remained faint beyond the region of Delhi & adjoining areas. They did have serious impact on the Indian Muslim cultures everywhere in different proportions who saw them as “Muslims who ruled Hindustan” & thus also adapted Persian aspects voraciously but Hindus outside Delhi & adj. areas had little cultural-historical associations with them. This can be exemplified by the fact that Aurangzeb cannot replace Lachit Boruphukan in Assam , Akbar never replaces Pratap from Mewar ; even though it is true that the latters were just minnows before the former as pointed out by many .Moreover Mughals never ruled India directly , firstly as there was no united India even under them. Secondly ,Rajput , Jat , Gujjar , Sikhs , Marathas & even esp. Pathans of Afghanistan contnued to rebel against the throne & those of them who did not , still ruled in their “name” . But the same Deconstruction of Indian Identity , that reduces Pratap , Shivaji , Lachit etc. to being regional heroes only , also rejects the myths “Akbar united India”. In fact the myths centring around “Akbar’s Exceptional secularism” gets contradicted by the stories of Nabahat Khan , conversion of Ramtanu Pandey to Mian Tansen ,or that his wife Mariam-uz-Zamman (aka Harka Bai) was buried. This does not prove him to be Fanatic but his Secularism that he showed was matched by almost all the Indian regional kings as well as Emperors like Sher Shah Suri , Shivaji or Peshwa Baji Rao . AGAIN NOT THAT HE WAS A GREATEST EMPEROR OF MEDIEVAL INDIA .One wonders whether the purpose was only to contrast his attitude with that of othet Turks & Mughals.
DECONSTRUCTING INDIAN NATIONALIST HISTORIOGRAPHY
In the name of writing Indian Nationalist Historiography , the Historians – Centrists & Leftists too, end up creating Hindu History , Muslim History ,even if reluctantly ,notwithstanding the fact that many Hindus & Muslims come from same tribal or caste identities. BUT Afterall it is due to this Natioanlist history , that Ancient India gets its overdues & foreigner Babur is remembered in place of native Raja Hassan Khan of Mewat .So yes , we need to DECONSTRUCT THIS COLLECTIVE INDIAN HISTORY. Moreover it will also help us in Seeing the STRUGGLE IN KASHMIR , NAGALAND , MANIPUR etc. differently & empathising with them.
It is hight time now that we stop using UNREALISTIC TERMS like MAURYAN INDIA , GUPTA INDIA , MUGHAL INDIA since the Mauryan or Gupta India was not exactly Mauryan or Gupta .BRITISH INDIA otherwise makes more sense as it were the British who UNITED INDIA ( at least too an extent) , none of the above three .Quite surprisingly , our history textbooks talk about Mauryas , Guptas , Harshavardhan & then shifts to Delhi Sultanate , Mughal rule . In between it gives cursory glance to the Gujjara Pratihara & Rashtrakutas (maybe bcz their territory did not include entire India) had the role played by them in stalling the Arabs to Sindh, that becomes evident from Mr. Sahane’s diatribe against Rajput community. Turks were not uniquely enemies of India , the Arab world & Persia were under Turkish hegemony too for centuries. That is how Also the Indian History fails to talk about Gujjar migrations into India that shaped the vernaculars , folks etc. of North-west India much more than the Sanskritised Hinduism or Persianised Islam did. In Fact MAJORITY of HINDUS , SIKHS & MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS of North-west India & Pakistan are Gujjars , Scythians ,Hephthalites or ABORIGINES LIKE BHEELS by race, INSTEAD OF BEING ARYANS OR TURKS .Are not they ?
ULTIMATELY THE GOV. ( not to expect from the present one) MUST SHUN PRE-MEDIEVAL HISTORICAL ICONS IN FAVOUR OF FREEDOM FIGHTERS , esp. SOCIAL REFORMERS or ELSE REJECT NAMING INSTITUTIONS AFTER PEOPLE . AND ALSO WE MUST LET THESE FOLK HEROES OF DIFFERENT GROUPS CIRCUMSCRIBED TO THE PEOPLE ONLY.