The AMU irony: BJP used a secular icon to play communal politics
Everything is fair in love and war, including usurping and diminishing icons to serve narrow political agenda - this seems to be the guiding motto of the BJP.
Everything is fair in love and war, including usurping and diminishing icons to serve narrow political agenda - this seems to be the guiding motto of the BJP, a party perennially on the election mode. It is working overtime to dig history in search of controversies. Why else would it suddenly fall in love with a Marxist revolutionary who handed Atal Behari Vajpayee his first big electoral drubbing in Lok Sabha elections 57 years ago?
So overwhelming was the presence of Raja Mahendra Pratap in Mathura as an independent candidate that Vajpayee got less than 10 per cent of the polled vote and forfeited his security deposit. Luckily for the Bharatiya Jan Sangh—the earlier avatar of the BJP -- Vajpayee also contested from Balrampur and was returned to Parliament. The Raja passed away during the Emergency 1976, four years before the BJP was born in its current avatar.
That the BJP would insist on celebrating his 126th birth anniversary on the campus of Aligarh Muslim University is rather intriguing. The party never cared to know the whereabouts of the Raja or his contribution to the nation for 125 years. It doesn’t need great political acumen to know why the new MP from Aligarh, Satish Gautam, wants to celebrate the Raja’s anniversary, particularly when his mother Sheela Gautam, MP from 1991 to 2004, never mentioned the Raja. AMU authorities were willing to allow the celebrations outside the campus. But was the BJP as keen on the celebrations as it was in creating a communal situation? Its effort to polarise Hindu votes for the 2017 assembly elections has begun. It’s part of a long project.
The BJP has also represented Mathura during the same period. But it overlooked the Raja’s greater contribution there. He had donated his palace in Vrindavan palace to start the first polytechnic Prem Mahavidyalaya (PMV) in India in 1909 to impart studies in specialized vocational courses. If the party was at all serious about the celebration, Vrindavan should have got a priority over Aligarh.
Fortunately, the party realised it had overplayed its hand and the adverse publicity could cost it the support of the moderates. There is a climb down and Satish Gautam says the party will avoid confrontation over the matter after the Vice-Chancellor announced to hold a special seminar to mark contributions of the "valiant soldier" in the nation building.
The whole episode reflects the destructive minds at work. The rich electoral dividends from the Jat- Muslim confrontation in Muzaffarnagar apparently drove the party to persist with the communal card. More party members have chosen the short cut to fame after the party rewarded Union minister Sanjeev Balyan and MLA Sangeet Som, the accused of last year’s Muzaffarnagar riots. “It is the right of any political party to celebrate the birthday of its icon,” Union ministerRam Shankar Katheria,HRD minister Smriti Irani’s junior.
One off-shoot of the BJP’s misadventure is the return into focus the contribution of the man who would have remained an unsung hero. AMU Vice-chancellor Zameeruddin Shah says Raja Mahendra Pratap’s role in India's freedom movement deserves to be remembered for posterity. With his credentials as a revolutionary and a secular icon he would only end up negating the BJP’s polarisation attempts. If more and more seminars are held to reflect over Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh’s role along with that with some of the leading Muslim clerics of that era like Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi could only weaken the BJP’s cause.
The Raja who left India to seek help from other countries for the nation’s freedom reached Germany met Chancellor Kaiser Wilhelm and then the Russian leader Lenin. He had earlier met the king of Afghanistan who in December, 1915 helped him and his associates form India’s first government exile under the banner of Ghadar party. Mahendra Pratap was the President and Moulana Barkatullah was the prime minister of the government that received recognition from Russia, Germany, USA, Turkey and several others countries.
His grandson Raja Amar Pratap Singh who has settled in Dehradun says Mahendra Pratap Singh formed the religion of love known as Prem Dharam. This religion recognizes all the other religions and opposes any kind of discrimination of caste, color, inequality of any kind.
“Dadaji had a special relation with the Muslim leaders and he visited temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and church. As a Hindu who studied in a Muslim university and married a girl from Sikh family the Raja was also known as Peter Peer Pratap to show an amalgamation of faiths,” says Amar Pratap who along with his sons Charat Pratap and Sharad Pratap host a website dedicated to the revolutionary. The Raja’s quote “No religion is greater than Love” adorns the top alongside the Tricolour.
The BJP had apparently bitten more than it could swallow!
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