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India: Sticky business of rewriting history - Maharana Pratap sticker replaces Akbar, briefly

by Pheroze L. Vincent , 14 June

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The Telegraph

New Delhi: If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, so goes a Goebbelsian tactic (some say misattributed to the Nazi propagandist).

If you repeat a stunt long enough, it may become signage etched in stone, so goes the mantra that drives the Sangh parivar or those who swear by it. Only, choose a stronger adhesive each time.

Milan Som, who introduced himself as a " vibhag sanyojak (divisional convener)" of the Bajrang Dal in Meerut, led a small group to Akbar Road near India Gate in the capital and defaced a signage featuring the Mughal emperor’s name.

Using a sticker, the group renamed the road after Maharana Pratap. Among the residents of the neighbourhood is BJP chief Amit Shah.

The sticker salute was Som’s way of paying tribute to the monarch of Mewar on his 478th birth anniversary on Wednesday.

"When the whole country is worshipping Maharana Pratap on his birth anniversary, we did our duty to put up his name in place of the tyrant Akbar.... In the heart of the capital, Akbar’s name must not remain and we will fight it out at all levels," Som said.

(For the record, many parts of Bengal were celebrating the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, not Maharana Pratap, on Wednesday.)

The signboard near India Gate is becoming something of a lightning rod. Last year, Maharana Pratap’s name had been pasted on the same signboard by an outfit called the Hindu Sena. For some reason, the foot soldiers did so in September, four months after the saffron-letter day on which Maharana Pratap’s 477th birth anniversary was celebrated last year.

Som was more punctual as well as resolute than his Sena brethren, coming armed with the stronger glue.

"They (the Bajrang Dal workers) used a laminated plastics adhesive. While scraping it off, even the reflective surface of the board was getting damaged. We may have to replace the board, which costs more than Rs 35,000," a New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) restoration crew member told this correspondent.

Som’s stickiness to the larger cause should not be questioned. In 2016, Som had moved Allahabad High Court to prevent the screening of Shorgul - a film critical of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots - and ensured that several cinemas in western Uttar Pradesh cancelled shows.

Akbar, who reigned from 1556 to 1605, is known to have funded the construction and expansion ofseveral temples in Mathura and Vrindavan and married at least two Rajput princesses.

But Som may have been taking his history lessons from BJP-ruled Rajasthan, where textbooks were revised last year to suggest that Maharana Pratap had won the Battle of Haldighati against Akbar. Maharana Pratap had to retreat after being injured in the battle in 1576. The Mughal forces were commanded by Rajput ruler Man Singh, and Mewar’s forces included Afghans led by Hakim Khan Sur, who was killed.

Or Som may have found inspiration from a worthy martial successor to Maharana Pratap - V.K. Singh, the former general who is now the junior foreign minister. In May last year, Singh had written to then urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu, demanding that Akbar Road be renamed after Maharana Pratap as he "had not been given his due" and "he was not only instrumental in stopping the might of Mughal king Akbar but he was truly secular and a man of the masses".

Naidu, who took a less controversial stand than that on the notice to impeach the Chief Justice of India, had tweeted in response: "We can name any important road or institution after this great hero of the nation but there is no proposal of naming a road by removing someone else’s name."

On Wednesday night, Delhi police registered an FIR and listed offences that can invite imprisonment up to a year.

P.S.

The above article from The Telegraph is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use