I want to be as factual as I can. Opinion, passion or colourful language shouldn’t be unnecessary. The truth can speak for itself.
On Monday, Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh, a former army chief and now minister of state for external affairs, wrote to Venkaiah Naidu, suggesting Akbar Road be renamed after Maharana Pratap in “recognition to his valour and spirit of secularism”. Mercifully, Mr Naidu has indicated he intends no such thing. However, I want to explain why the dear general’s suggestion is both historically mistaken and unnecessary.
First, there already is a road in Delhi named after Maharana Pratap. It’s in Karol Bagh. In addition, the full name of ISBT is Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus. But not just the dear general, many others might be unaware of that too. Finally, there’s a large equestrian statue of the Maharana astride Chetak in the Parliament complex. It shows him in battle, possibly Haldighati. So the Maharana is well commemorated and the dear general’s claim he “has not been given his due” is incorrect.
Now, let’s turn to Emperor Akbar. He was as valorous and secular as the Maharana. In addition, he was considered a great administrator and anecdotal history records the high quality of his justice.
The critical facts of his life eloquently testify to his secularism. He married a Hindu Rajput princess popularised by Bollywood as Jodhabai. He created his own religion, attempting to absorb the best of all faiths, called Din-e-Illahi. He had The Mahabharata and The Ramayana translated into Persian. He repealed the jizya tax on non-Muslims (1564). Finally, Hindus played a prominent role at his court. Todarmal and Mansingh are two that immediately come to mind.
Regardless of this, Subramanian Swamy, now a BJP MP, calls him a “butcher” and “philanderer”. Lokendra Kalvi, the president of the Rajput Sena, insists he was a “foreigner”. In contrast, Kalvi claims the Maharana was “a nationalist”.
I’m not sure one can apply the concept of nationalism to the 16th century in a meaningful leave aside accurate way. If he was a nationalist, what do you make of the Maharana’s many Rajput opponents who he often fought mercilessly? Were they anti-national?
Also, if Akbar, who was born, brought up and died in India, is a foreigner then, I presume, Kalvi considers all Muslims, albeit at one remove, foreigners? I don’t.
However, if there’s still need to do more then surely the road that should be renamed after the Maharana is Prithviraj Road? At the moment it commemorates a Hindu king who lost the 1192 Battle of Tarain to Mohammed Ghori. That led to nearly 700 years of Muslim rule in northern India, first under the Sultanate and, then, the Mughal Empire. Prithviraj, you could argue, ain’t a monarch to remember.
There’s also Mansingh Road and Todarmal Road and Lane. Neither can claim popular precedence over the Maharana whilst Todarmal, you might inaccurately claim, is the etymological origin of the word toady!
Finally, a parting word about the dear general. Many suspect his motivation is an antipathy to Muslims and a subtle attempt to provoke. I can’t be sure but if this suspicion is correct I’m horrified a man who spent 40 years in the army and rose to be chief should have secretly harboured such sentiments. The fact he’s now revealed them must be disillusioning for thousands of Muslims who once served under him.
Even if he’s not blushing, the dear general has embarrassed the army. Actually, yet again!
The views expressed are personal.