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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 40, New Delhi, September 26, 2015

A Symbol of Unity and Harmony

Monday 28 September 2015, by Bharat Dogra

Maharana Pratap is one of the most courageous heroes of India’s history whose 475th anniversary is being celebrated this year. Pratap defended his much smaller kingdom of Mewar very bravely against the much more powerful forces sent by Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, in the famous battle of Haldighati. Later he continued his struggles from forests and hills with guerilla warfare-type tactics, and by the time of his death he was able to reclaim some of his territory and forts.

This story is well known. Not so well known are some other extremely important aspects of Maharana Pratap and his battles. To complete the story, we need to remember these relatively neglected aspects as sometimes deliberate efforts are made to suppress these aspects.

Firstly, we should not forget that in the battle of Haldighati the brave resistance offered by Maharana Pratap was led, to a considerable extent, by his brave commander Hakim Khan Sur (or Suri) and his Muslim soldiers. This aspect that Maharana Pratap was greatly helped by Muslim soldiers is often deliberately suppressed, even though people of Mewar still remember the great courage of Hakim Khan Sur and his soldiers with great respect and a memorial has also been erected to pay respects to Hakim Khan Sur.

Side by side another related fact that has been suppressed is that Pratap had good relations with Muslim rulers like Taj Khan of Jalaur. He had given jagirs to Sindhi Muslims. He extended encouragement to Muslim artists who achieved a lot of accomplishments during his rule.

What is most important is to remember that while Hakim Khan Sur was the main commander of Maharana Pratap in the famous battle of Haldighati, Akbar’s forces were led by Raja Mansingh, a highly respected Hindu General of Akbar who was time and again given the most crucial responsibilities by him.

Thus there is absolutely no justification for calling this a fight between Hindus and Muslims, even though such distortions have been repeated there time and again.

It may also be noted here that Akbar’s rule was identified mainly with policies of social harmony and unity of all religions. Due to this he faced the anger of Muslim religious fundamentalists and to suppress this revolt he sent armies led by Mansingh and Todarmal!

So to call these medieval battles Hindu-Muslim battles is absolute junk.

Another neglected aspect of Rana Pratap’s role is the respect he gave to Adivasis. As a result during his years of exile the Adivasis became his most trusted soldiers. They were also most capable of handling guerilla warfare-type tactics needed by Pratap during his years of exile in forests and hills.

So the great thing about Rana Pratap is that he could build a wider unity of Hindus, Muslims and Adivasis as he believed in respect for all communities. This was the real strength of his great struggles.

Also, we should not forget that the successors of Akbar (Jehangir) and Rana Pratap (Amar Singh) were able to reach a mutually honourable settlement. History should highlight not just battles but also reconciliation and friendships.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.