‘Akbar was a molester’: BJP leader accuses Mughal Emperor of sexual misconduct, triggers fresh-old debate
A BJP leader declares Akbar the Great was basically like a roadside molester. Well, bigotry aside, the silver lining here is democracy which spares no one, not even the most medieval Badshahs.
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When I was a kid, I was fascinated with all things Mughal — Mughal architecture, Mughal rulers, Mughal, sorry, Mughlai cuisine. My 8th standard history books fanned the flames of my fascination with the empire and so did, of course, the Akbar-Birbal comics.
So this morning, when I heard Rajasthan’s BJP chief, Madan Lal Saini accuse Mughal Emperor Akbar — The Great — of 'molesting women', I was completely taken aback.
Of course, our politicians have had plenty of foot-in-mouth moments but this was unlike any other.
This one would probably make historians jump out of their armchairs and my history teacher extremely, extremely unhappy. The BJP chief alleged that Emperor Akbar would cross-dress and enter the ‘Meena Baazar’ that was exclusively meant for women. He would then allegedly harass them under his disguise.
Zille Subhani or roadside Romeo? Who exactly was Akbar the Great? (Source: India Today)
At first, I was filled with disgust. How can anyone accuse a celebrated Mughal emperor of doing something so heinous and disgraceful? But that was when realization dawned upon me — even men who died hundreds of years ago and are not remotely nearby to defend themselves are not safe from such grave accusations.
And why should they be?
Men like Akbar have been an integral part of India’s historical discourse. They have been lauded over decades, and that's aside from all the palaces and the forts and the paintings and the music and the shahi khana et al that was part of the goodies of life they very much enjoyed. So, the occasional brickbat, even centuries after their passing can be taken in their royal stride.
However, what happens when an accusation levelled at a historical figure like Akbar The Great is not backed up by facts or any evidence? Should we still pay heed to such accusations? Of course, any allegation of molestation should be dealt with in all seriousness — but how do we ascertain that this gentleman from the BJP is not motivated by any bigotry? By perhaps a little bit of hatred for Muslim heritage?
Forget the history books. For some, Emperor Akbar was just a molestor. Period. (Source: India Today)
This whole Akbar-bashing episode reminded me of an article published last year, which argued that the film ‘Padmaavat’ is every upper-caste Hindu male’s fantasy, simply because it portrayed Khilji, a Muslim emperor, in a negative light and upheld the honour of Rajput Hindus.
Guess what? Now, the same BJP chief who has called Akbar a ‘molester’ has also argued that comparing Akbar with Maharana Pratap is a ‘mockery of history’.
"To compare such a person with Maharana Pratap is a mockery of history. This will not inspire future generations of the country," he said.
Somehow, it seems that in a battle between Khiljis and Rajputs, or Akbars and Maharana Prataps, it is always the Muslim men who are accused of being lecherous, evil types, devious beings who can do no good. They are accused of having ‘nawaabi shaunk’ — talk about homophobia — as well as a full-time career of diverse sexual misconducts.
Acceptable Distance? Akbar’s interactions with women around him may now come under renewed scrutiny. (Source: Jodhaa Akbar still/India Today)
What’s interesting to note however, is that such historical figures are still being accused today, as India steps into the 21st century, of committing such heinous acts. Of course it shows that people may die but bigotry lives forever. But there is a silver lining too — perhaps this is also what democracy in today’s day and age entails. The freedom of speech, which gives everyone the right to speak their mind, no matter how ignorant their opinions may be. And the power of such freedom, which can turn the image of a mighty and grand Emperor into your local Roadside Romeo.
That’s democracy for you. Yup.