The Other

The Raja of AMU that did not belong to BJP

In a communally-charged Modi-fied India, where we are either Hindus or Muslims, it is difficult to imagine the complexities of a historical figure.

 |  The Other  |  4-minute read |   29-11-2014
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There is something called grace in victory. And in donation, too.

Raja Mahendra Pratap, who only happens to be another Hindu figure the BJP has dug out from the archives of history without even caring for his antecedents, would have felt so. To try and bludgeon a university he studied at, and loved enough to donate land to it, to hold an event in his memory is downright bullying, if not disgraceful.

Jat King, as Raja Mahendra Pratap is known in the area, was a freedom fighter and closely associated with a large section of Muslim "ulema" (or religious scholars) in the fight against British imperialism. With little available in public sphere on this obscure figure from history (thanks to the BJP's penchant for digging troubles, not people), the one place where one could read more on him is Wikipedia.

Sample this vignette from his Wikipedia profile: "Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh (1 December 1886 – 29 April 1979) was a Hindu freedom fighter, journalist, writer, and Marxist revolutionary social reformist of India. He was popularly known as the Aryan Peshwa."

Hope the Sangh ideologues notice a series of conflicting descriptors here: Hindu, Marxist, Aryan, Peshwa. These are not impossibilities. These multiple positions are the products of a certain colonial condition, which produced well-rounded personalities way more enlightened than we are today and way more comfortable in thier various skins.

In a communally-charged Modified India, where we are either Hindus or Muslims, with no further space allowed for nuances or subtext, it is difficult to imagine the complexities of a historical figure. Or their struggles. But we must try, or the dangers are far too many.

What is even more laughable is the BJP's yet another attempt to appropriate a historical figure who did not even belong to the party or its beliefs. The party's political predecessor, the Jan Sangh, had opposed the Raja when he contested the 1952 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from Mathura.

Here is another sample from the Raja's brief bio on Wiki: "On his 28th birthday in 1915, Pratap established the first Provisional Government of India at Kabul as a Muslim government-in-exile of Free Hindustan, with himself as President, Maulavi Barkatullah as Prime Minister and Maulavi Abaidullah Sindhi as Home Minister, and declared jihad on the British."

Repeat: jihad. One of the most misunderstood terms as the contemporary universe revels in collective Islamophobia.

The Silk Letter Movement (Tehreek-e-Reshmi Rumal), which the Raja was a part of, was a movement organised by Deobandi leaders at the beginning of the last century. It called for allying with Ottoman Turkey, Imperial Germany and Afghanistan in the struggle against the British. Last year, President Pranab Mukherjee even released a commemorative stamp on the movement to honour their sacrifices for India's independence.

The Aligarh Muslim University was a product of an equally complex historical movement, with protagonists of all strands coming together to create an academic institution. Its almost 150-year history is a long narrative of Islamists, Marxists, Nationalists and host of other -ists collaborating together for knowledge, the pursuit of which in itself is a complex exercise.

That a Hindu, Ishwari Prasad, was the first person to graduate from the university is a fact the BJP would conveniently choose to gloss over in its xenophobia and hatred for the other. That the writer of this column made some of the most wonderful and life-long Hindu friends on campus is something the party doesn't want to hear. That it remains a powerful example of the Ganga-Jamuni tahzeeb whose legacy is more relavant now than ever is bound to make the BJP squirm.

But they remain the foundational ideals of the university, the BJP's divisive plans notwithstanding. Such plans worked wonders for the party in Uttar Pradesh, where a Muzaffarnagar (which again incidentally divided Jats and Muslims) helped the Saffron outfit regain a state it had lost for more than a decade.

But that was to win an election. Which it did with an impressive majority. Why has hatred only become more pronounced and in-your-face after that? Why do the Sangh loonies enjoy absolute impunity as they unleash hate mongering and majoritarian terror? Why this arrogance? Where is the grace in victory?

Leviathans are monsters. They tend to crush everything that comes in their way. The BJP should be beware: that thing under its feet right now is India's pride in its composite past and the present. And it is far more resilient than the Sangh thinks.

Writer

Nadim Asrar Nadim Asrar @_sufiyana_

Independent journalist based in New Delhi

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