Dear Shaina NC, We Live In A Country Where Both Akbar & Maharana Pratap Can Co-Exist

18/05/2016 4:20 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - MAY 16: Posters that had a photo of Maharana Pratap along with the name Maharana Pratap Road pasted on the signage of Akbar Road by some miscreants on May 16, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Some rightwing organizations are raising demand for renaming the road from Akbar Road to Maharana Pratap. Maharana Pratap, a 16th-century ruler of Mewar, is known for his fight against the Mughals, especially emperor Akbar. In September 2015, the NDMC, amid protests, changed the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road. The proposal was floated by BJP MP Mahesh Giri. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

First they came for Aurangzeb, and not enough people spoke out because we’ve been taught not to like Aurangzeb. Now they’ve come for Akbar?

Shaina NC had better hope that just as there is “misquoted” there is something called “mistweeted”. Otherwise there’s really no defense for this blooper.

The latest made-for-media controversy is a proposal by minister of state VK Singh (does he have no work?) that Akbar Road in Delhi be renamed after Maharana Pratap. It’s a proposal seconded by the busiest man in the BJP, aka Subramanian Swamy.

Just about a year ago I happened to hear Shaina NC speak at the Kashish LGBT film festival in Mumbai and was quite impressed. She was the chief guest at the festival and told a cheering crowd that she was determined to stand by them in the fight against Section 377.

Let me quote:

To the Kashish family, I would like to say that the road ahead will not be easy. You will meet resistance. But on my part I will assure you that I will stand for you, I will stand with you whether we may succeed or not.

It was a striking moment of commonsensical independence in a party where the Home Minister has categorically stood by Section 377 dubbing homosexuality an “unnatural act”. That took guts.

Is this the same Shaina NC? Now she sounds like she drank the Sangh Parivar Koolaid.

Shaina NC is supposed to be the smart, media-savvy, articulate face of the BJP. This is not Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti whose intemperate utterances Narendra Modi asked his colleagues to excuse because of her lack of education and sophistication.

In our history books, both Maharana Pratap and Akbar were treated as heroes. Maharana Pratap was never turned into a daku in order to hype Akbar’s glory. If Akbar was the Great, Pratap was Maha. The fact however remains that Akbar was the emperor of Hindustan, Maharana Pratap was the ruler of Mewar. It does not matter if he was secular and his army chief was a Pathan and Bhils and Adivasis served among his troops as Singh tells us. There’s a difference in scale here which cannot be denied. Maharana Pratap’s bravery might be admirable but his impact on India’s history cannot compare to Akbar’s.

akbar road delhi

In order to level that difference, Shaina NC is equating Akbar to Hitler. It’s an idea so preposterous that one can only imagine that Shaina NC either knows no history (Indian or European) or is desperate to somehow get onto the news cycle when even Meenakshi Lekhi, no shrinking violet herself, says “I am not aware of such a proposal, so I cannot comment on it.”

Hitler is the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to personification of evil. Modi’s opponents do it to him. Now Shaina NC is doing it to Akbar and neither side bothers to think whether the label really fits. Emperors, even ones with The Great tacked to their names, are not made of sugar and spice and all things nice. They tended to fight wars and kill lots of people, all kinds of people. Body count proves nothing. Intent does. If Shaina NC can prove that Akbar was deliberately rounding up non-Muslims by the millions and massacring them in concentration camps, she has been reading a very different history book than the rest of us have. And she must instantly let us all know.

While Shaina insists there’s no communal agenda here, that’s just doublespeak. In a country where way too many roads, bridges, programmes are named after the Nehru-Gandhis, zeroing in on a street named after Akbar is just plain mischief-mongering. As Rishi Kapoor has said “Change Gandhi family assets named by Congress” if renaming has to be done. Even the BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu says it’s not on his agenda. By putting it out there anyway, Singh and Shaina NC are playing the old dog whistle game.

The question is not whether Maharana Pratap deserves a road in Delhi or not. The problem is Shaina NC and her ilk cannot seem to even entertain the idea that we can live in a country where both Akbar and Maharana Pratap can have roads named after them, that it’s not a mutually exclusive proposition. Akbar’s forces might have fought with Maharana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati but there’s no reason to continue that fight almost 450 years later on the streets of Lutyens Delhi.

VK Singh of presstitute fame is perennially with a foot in his mouth. Perhaps he wants to be the Minister of State for Name Change. But Shaina NC should be ashamed of playing along.

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