National Museum to host symposium on ‘Last Hindu Emperor of Delhi’
After Maharana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has found a new Hindu icon among medieval Indian royalty: Hemu, the vanquished combatant in the Second Battle of Panipat, whose defeat ended the shortlived rule of a Hindu king over Delhi, and led to the resurrection of Mughal power in India.
The Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), the history wing of the RSS, will next month pay tributes to “Maharaja Hemchandra Vikramaditya”, the “Great Warrior of India”, and “the last Hindu Emperor of Delhi”.
The ceremony, at Delhi’s National Museum on October 5, will be presided over by the Union Minister of Culture, Shripad Yesso Naik. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy will be the chief guest. Among the speakers will be Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) joint general secretary Vinayak Deshpande.
Hemu, a brilliant military commander for the Afghan successors of Sher Shah Suri had, after a trail of successful campaigns against both Afghan rebels and the Mughals, declared himself emperor of Delhi in October 1556 — the first Hindu king to control the city since the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century.
Barely a month later, on November 5, 1556, Hemu met the Mughal army led by the generals of the then 14-year-old Akbar at the battlefield of Panipat.
He led from the front, and was said to have been on the verge of victory, when a freak arrow struck him in the eye, knocking him off his battle elephant, and triggering panic among his troops.
The battle changed course dramatically after that, and a general massacre of Hemu’s army followed. The injured Hemu himself was captured and beheaded by Bairam Khan, Akbar’s guardian, paving the way for re-establishment of Mughal rule in Delhi, which lasted for another 300 years before it was ended by the British.
The invitation card for the October 5 ceremony describes the event as “A Forgotten Hindu Emperor Maharaja Hemchandra Vikramaditya: A Tribute”. B M Pande, organising secretary of ABISY, who will speak at the event, told The Sunday Express, “We are always in favour of recognising and remembering our forgotten, real heroes who were deliberately ignored by the biased historians of the Mughal and British era.”
Shivaji and Pratap, who resisted the Mughals, are already huge icons for the RSS. June 6, Shivaji’s Coronation Day, is among the five festivals the
RSS celebrates officially every year (the others being Guru Purnima, Raksha Bandhan, Makar Sankranti and Varsh Pratipada).
The ABISY is an RSS front engaged in writing and propagating the Sangh’s view of India’s history. As reported by The Indian Express recently, one of its major ongoing projects is to provide an “Indian perspective” to history by writing it on the basis of the Puranas. The ABISY is also working on a “district-level history”, and the history of over 600 Indian tribes.
This is the first time that an RSS programme is being organised at the National Museum. A museum officer said that while the Minister would chair the programme, the museum has only allowed the organisers the use of its auditorium, which is meant for cultural and academic events.
Historian Prof Sunil Kumar of Delhi University declined to comment on the celebration of Hemu. “There is no history (in programmes such as these)… This is just politicisation of history. A historian cannot comment on this,” Prof Kumar said.
Pande denied the RSS was making a fresh bid to re-interpret India’s history because a BJP-led government was back in power at the Centre. “It is just a coincidence. This is part of our ongoing programme. We are here to remember all our heroes. It is our duty to remember Hemu and his valour,” he said.