Days after protests in Rajasthan over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film Padmavati, three senior ministers of the Vasundhara Raje government have backed a proposal to rewrite history taught at the university level to say that Rajput warrior-king Maharana Pratap won the Battle of Haldighati against the Mughal army of Akbar led by his general Man Singh.
The proposal, discussed at a meeting of Rajasthan University, was backed Tuesday by former Higher Education Minister Kalicharan Saraf (now Health Minister) and School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani. On Wednesday, Urban Development and Housing Minister Rajpal Singh Shekhawat joined the chorus.
Last week, university syndicate member and BJP MLA Mohan Lal Gupta had proposed rewriting the history curriculum in Rajasthan university to portray Maharana Pratap as the winner of the 1576 battle. Acting Vice Chancellor Rajeshwar Singh said the proposal has been forwarded to the university’s Board of Studies (for critical examination and appropriate decision).
Authoritative texts on medieval history, such as Satish Chandra’s Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals- Mughal Empire (1526-1748), say the Battle of Haldighati was fought between the forces of Akbar led by Man Singh and those of Maharana Pratap, assisted among others by “an Afghan contingent led by Hakim Sur which played a distinctive role”. The battle failed to break the stalemate between Akbar and Rana Pratap, with the latter retreating into the hills of southern Mewar.
“The Mughal forces were commanded by Kr. Man Singh. With both the Hindus and the Muslims divided, the battle of Haldighati can scarcely be considered a struggle between Hindus and Muslims. Nor can it be considered a struggle for Rajput independence, influential sections of the Rajputs already having cast their lot with the Mughals. The struggle can be regarded at best as an assertion of the principle of local independence,” Chandra notes.
“Akbar followed up the battle of Haldighati by coming back to Ajmer, and personally leading the campaign against Rana Pratap. In the process, Goganda, Udaipur and Kumbhalmir were occupied, forcing the Rana deeper into the mountainous tract of south Mewar,” he writes.
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But Minister Kalicharan Saraf says Akbar was only a foreign invader, and that Rana Pratap actually won the battle. “Yes, it has been established. A distorted version of history has been taught to generations of students. But the fact is that Akbar was a foreign invader and Maharana Pratap was a brave, patriotic ruler. And if there is a proposal to correct this mistake and tell students that Maharana Pratap actually won the battle, then what is wrong with it?” Saraf told The Indian Express.
Asked why he did not take a decision on the issue while he was Higher Education Minister, Saraf said he had not come across the idea then.
School Education Minister Devnani, who has presided over a curriculum change in Rajasthan schools where Akbar is taught without the suffix ‘great’, supported the view. He however, ruled out modifying school books to accommodate it. “Our books have now been published. But it is true. Maharana Pratap did win the battle of Haldighati against Akbar,” Devnani said.
Historian Tanuja Kothiyal, who specialises in the history of medieval Rajasthan, believes altering historical facts such as the result of the Battle of Haldighati “not only insults history but the education process as a whole”.
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“That Akbar defeated Rana Pratap is a fact of history, but local sentiment and public memory have very different ideas. When Rajasthan came into existence in the 1950s, there was no other element bringing it together than the fact that it is a collection of Rajput states. so celebrating Maharana Pratap becomes crucial in forging a Rajasthani identity. However, just to accommodate public memory, one can’t turn facts around. It would be very detrimental to history as well as to education,” Kothiyal said.