School students in Rajasthan will soon be taught that Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap defeated the decorated army of Mughal emperor Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati some 450 years ago.
Most academics scoff at this idea because historical evidence shows that Pratap, the ruler of the erstwhile Mewar region, fled the battlefield, although in the later years he continued his guerilla war against the Mughals.
The storied military campaign is among several historical facts that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ruling BJP’s ideological fount, is accused of trying to rewrite as part of efforts to promote its vision of Indian culture and way of life.
“In fact all heroes --- from Pratap to Prithviraj Chauhan --- that the RSS is projecting had lost conclusively. By twisting facts one cannot re-write history,” said professor D N Jha, former member of Indian Council for Historical Research.
Irfan Habib, professor emeritus at Aligarh Muslim University’s history department, refused to comment, saying it would be senseless to argue with the RSS.
“They can teach whatever they want,” he said.
But Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani told Hindustan Times students will not read “distorted history” from the next academic year. Until now, students of class X and XII read Pratap had lost the battle.
“If Akbar’s armies won the battle then why did they return to the battlefield six times? There has been an attempt to downplay the role of our heroes,” Devnani said.
The state government is believed to have got its idea of rewriting the history of Haldighati from a book titled ‘Maharana Pratap: Kumbalgarh se Chavand’.
KS Gupta, retired professor of history from Udaipur’s Mohanlal Sukhadia University, says his book examined contemporary Persian records, near contemporary Rajasthani sources and studied the circumstances to conclude that the dominant view that Maharana Pratap lost the battle is not correct.
Even so, most historians from Rajasthan dispute this.
“If the Mughals lost the battle, they should have left but the fact is they never left for several years, and Pratap didn’t give up fighting,” said Reema Hooja, author of History of Rajasthan.
“So if there was any winner in Haldighati, it was the Mughal army which was left standing in the battlefield.”
Prof KG Sharma, head of the history department at University of Rajasthan, said, “Initially the Rajputs were overpowering in the war but then somebody spread the rumour that Akbar himself had arrived with a large contingent.
“The rumour caused Maharana Pratap and his men to retreat into the hills.”