Skip to main content

Hindutva campaign against Akbar, whose rich, libertarian legacy is 'detested' in Pakistan

By Binoj Nair* 

History is small fry to seasoned craftsmen like the RSS who can come up with dummies that look more authentic than the real. There is no better testimony to this statement than the mangled legacy of the greatest of all Mughals, Emperor Akbar, who is deservedly called Akbar the Great.
A malicious campaign against the peerless monarch has been going full throttle since the ascension to power of the Hindutva-propelled BJP government in New Delhi under Narendra Modi. Myths, fantasies, hearsay and deliberate falsification of history have been rolled into melodramatic TV shows, fake documentaries, spiteful social media posts and state-sponsored mudslinging at the noble emperor who is being deliberately portrayed as a blood-thirsty Muslim bigot.
Back in 2017, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh blared his indignation at the historians for denying the brave Rajput king Maharana Pratap “his fair share of veneration”. He seemed flabbergasted at the preferential treatment given to Akbar through the adulation ‘Akbar the Great’ while Pratap, who despite being equally great was never treated like one!
The BJP ruled Rajasthan’s school board was quick to toe the minister’s line and promptly ‘corrected’ history to magically turn the fortunes of the epic Battle of Haldighatti in Pratap’s favor in school text books. The minister, understandably, was annoyed more by the defeat of a Hindu king at the hands of a Muslim than anything else.
Fact, if anyone cares, has it that Pratap was routed in the battle and was forced to retreat by Akbar’s Mughal forces. The effect of a spurious Hindutva-friendly television soap was such that a blogger who took to social media about it, revealed that her five-year-old neighbour, who is yet to start school, hates Akbar already!
The minister, while trying to portray the Battle of Haldighati as a Hindu-Muslim war, was ignorant of the fact that Akbar wasn’t even involved in the battle, and that it was the Hindu, Raja Man Singh, his trusted general who thwarted Pratap on the battle field to keep the pride of the Mughal Empire. On the other side, one of the commanders of Pratap’s army was the Pathan general Hakim Khan Suri, who laid down his life fighting for the Hindu king.
Now, a quick peek at the real story of the Emperor. Historians who have approached the matter with propriety are united in their opinion that Akbar was quite possibly the most tolerant and benevolent of all Mughal rulers.
Having realized the importance of keeping the majority non-Muslim population amused with his reign, he used a conciliatory path to maintain peace and stability in his highly diverse empire. Like his grandfather Babur, he advanced ‘marriage diplomacy’ as a tool to bridge the gap with the Hindu community. Akbar was a true egalitarian who firmly believed that all people in his kingdom should be treated with the same respect.
Akbar quite persuasively broke away from the conservative clutches of the Islamic clergy to widen his mental horizons beyond the limits of his religion. One of his ambitious and encompassing moves was the promulgation of a new faith framework, the ‘Din-i-Ilahi’ (The Divine Faith), where he pulled in ideas from all the major religions including the polytheistic Hinduism, in a bid to foster a ‘catch-all’ secular empire and reduce communal tensions.
His Ibadat Khana at his capital Fatehpur Sikri became an assembly of the best brains from various religions. He conscientiously participated in the debates every Thursday, and had a keen attachment to Sufism, which he called “the wisdom of the Vedanta”.
Akbar was a champion of social justice too, and was a pioneer in fighting the evil Sati. There is literature about his rescuing the daughters of the Raja of Jodhpur and Raja Udai Singh of Jaipur from self-immolation. Akbar also encouraged widow re-marriage among Hindus, but didn’t really enforce social reforms through legislations so not to offend the strong traditionalist lobby.
Despite being illiterate, Akbar had a penchant for literature and owned a massive library in his palace with collections in a variety of languages and topics. He was well ahead of his time to open a library for women only. He oversaw an ambitious project of the rendering of religious texts like Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Bible to Persian, and set up a translations department to enable the work.
While the work on Ramayana took Akbar’s court historian Mulla Abdul Qadir Badauni four years to complete, the Mahabharata was adapted first into Hindi, and later into Persian in a two-step process. The style of architecture fostered during his rule is a strong touchstone of his openness to diversity and inclusion.
Traditional Hindu ingredients were an outstanding feature of the Indo-Islamic architectural scheme that was conceived during the time. His capital city of Fatehpur Sikri is an impressive tribute to the sublime synthesis of dissimilar and distinctive traditions. The elephant-shaped brackets that adorn the pillars of the Lahore fort are redolent evidences of a strong Hindu influence on the structural patterns followed in those days.
Akbar called Sufism wisdom of Vedanta. He was a champion of social justice, and a pioneer in fighting the evil Sati
An enduring testimonial of Akbar’s remarkable ‘easement’ with other religions is his long-standing camaraderie with his advisor and friend, Birbal. The witty Brahmin gained respect and adulation of the entire Mughal Empire as the “brightest jewel” among the ‘Navratnas’ (the nine jewels) of Akbar’s court. 
Akbar’s trust in his intimate friend of three decades was unshakeable, and Birbal was the only member of his court to reside within the palace complex and the only other subscriber to his new religion.
Historians Abu’l Fazl and Abdul Qadir Badauni have recorded Akbar’s desolation and anguish at the death of his friend, and state that he refused to eat or drink in grief for two days. The king was despondent over his inability to confine the unclaimed body of his friend to flames as per Hindu tradition.
Birbal was killed in his master’s service fighting the intruding Afghani Yousafzai tribe, and as a mark of respect to the unflinching devotion of his friend, Akbar named one of the seven gates to his palace after his close confidante. Together, they derived the best out of the synthesis of the exquisite features of Hindu and Islamic traditions.
The progressive and all-encompassing policies of Akbar are detested heavily in the neighbouring Pakistan for understandable reasons. While they have invoked the more orthodox legacies of Babar, the Ghazni and the Ghori in their missile programmes, they have purposefully downplayed Akbar’s significance over the years and have hit the delete key on his rich and libertarian legacy.
On the Indian side of the fence, Akbar has historically been referred to as the Mughal-e-Azam or the Great Emperor until recently. The country’s Supreme Court hailed him “the architect of modern India” while the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru paid him rich tributes in his phenomenal work “The Discovery of India”. Nehru showered abundant praise on the dynamic ruler for creating a “sense of oneness among the diverse elements of north and central India”.
However, the launch of the Sangh Parivar-led government in New Delhi under Narendra Modi in 2014 marked the beginning of the befouling of the Muslim heritage associated with India’s past. Keeping with its persistent attack on the Mughal phase of India’s history, the Hindutva right wing has been trying to smudge the prestige and splendor of Akbar’s legacy.
Attempts ranging from distorting history to defacing signs of streets named after the Great Mughal are living examples of the fast diminishing tolerance of a large section of the country’s Hindu population towards Muslim artifacts.
The Sangh Parivar, while distorting history to show Akbar in a bad light, is essentially discrediting a glorious phase of India’s history, which was, in fact, profusely benevolent towards the Hindu culture. Sheer hatred for Islam has numbed their common sense to prompt such disgraceful disfiguring of history as ‘re-writing’ the Battle of Haldighatti with the ease of editing a movie script.
It is quite emotive for a passionate student of history that it was at the trusted hands of a Hindu Rajput prince Man Singh, who was his chief commander and governor of a Mughal province, that Akbar left the reins of his critical military offensive against Maharana Pratap. Historian Rima Hooja has testified that on the ground, the battle was essentially fought between two Rajputs, Man Singh and Pratap.
Contrary to the distorted narrative popularized by some Hindu fascist corners, Akbar was not even in the field brandishing his sword at Hindu self-respect. So it was Man Singh, who convincingly overpowered the mighty forces of Mewar under Pratap, to save the dignity of the Mughal Empire.
Historical accounts of the socio-political climate of Akbar’s period validates the boundless freedom the Hindu population enjoyed under him, which also drew them closer to their Muslim brethren more than ever before during the period.
Thus, the period served to be the triumphant prototype of the secular India that came into being after independence from colonial rule. Sadly, we are presently up against the perturbing sight of those secular pillars of the country corroding away rapidly, at the connivance of the RSS-family.
The Hindu-Muslim discord has hit such an alarming peak that, all evidences factored in, it can be safely concluded that Akbar’s Mughal India was way more secular and tolerant than Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
My tributes to the Mughal-e-Azam on the 417th anniversary of his death.
*From Edmonton, Canada, activist and author, has spoken and written against racial bigotry and anti-Muslimism in India and beyond; researcher in Quran; chief patron of the education and awareness initiative Fighting Anti-Muslimism with the Quran and the Rasool; holds PhD in psychology. Facebook: Twitter:



Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

'Unprecedented rise' of attacks on students of Delhi university by ABVP condemned

Counterview Desk  A statement, sent as an email alert by "concerned teachers and students of Delhi University", referring to a protest organised against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad's (ABVP's), has alleged “brutal” attack on students and teachers demanding the release of civil rights leader Prof GN Saibaba and others from “unjust incarceration.” “We are seeing an unprecedented rise of attacks on the students of our university by the fascist ABVP goons. Almost every week we see our fellow students and activists getting attacked physically by the lackeys of this current Brahmanical Hindutva fascist regime”, the statement claimed. Text : A joint protest was organised by the students and teachers of Delhi University on 2nd of December against the brutal attack by ABVP goons. On 1st of December, activists of Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) and many other organisations as a part of Campaign Against State Repression (CASR),

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Muslims, Dalits off Bangladesh border 'don't have acess to' water, power, farmland

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, civil rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, has revealed how, even after 75 years of Independence, Muslims and Dalits living next to the India-Bangladesh border do not have access to electricity, drinking water, even to their own land. Stating that the “horrible situation” has due to “illegal restriction on the agricultural activities” imposed by the Border Security Force (BSF), plunging “farmers and their families into deeper poverty”, the letter, referring to the plight of 1,200 people reside in the Changmari village, states, There are about 200 acres of cultivable lands out of 3,500 acres is situated beyond the border fence. “The ingress and egress of the farmers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates are regulated by the BSF. The soil and climate of this region is very suitable for jute and maize cultivation”, it adds. Text: This letter is

Climate change 'can't be fought' with fancy issues: re-engineering cities, green energy

By Shankar Sharma*  "The Hindu" has carried a discussion paper in the form of an interview, Can poor countries afford to go green? Many such articles/ opinion pieces are making the grievous mistake of ignoring a fundamental question: what is the true cost of climate change (CC), and can poor countries, or for that matter any community, afford not to do all that is feasible to address the threats of  CC; instead of wasting our time and resources in endlessly deliberating on the so called "financial/economic costs" of the much needed transition. Such articles seem to focus only on high profile / glamorous/ debatable stuff, and ignore the basic issues which we all can do something or the other to minimise the impacts of CC in the short-term, and which may probably lead to long term solution. The opinion pieces/ discussion, as above, are guilty of conveniently ignoring the basic question: what is the fundamental cause of CC? The answer should be: the unsustainable dema

Nullifying environmental release, uproot GM mustard plants: 111 doctors urge Modi

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 111 medical professionals , most of them senior doctors, has expressed concern with regard to human health implications of the genetically modified (GM) herbicide tolerant (HT) mustard that got approved by Government of India, with indications that it has already been planted in at least six locations. Floated by Dr Rupal M Dalal, a Mumbai-based pediatrician, the letter, even as “welcoming” Modi’s “unprecedented push” towards non-chemical farming in the country for the benefit of environment, nature, consumers and farmers, it said, “HT GM mustard will push the country in the opposite direction.” “A herbicide tolerant crop will put an end to diversity-based cropping, which is important not just for soil health but human health and expose consumers and farmers to a toxic herbicide with serious long term health implications”, it added. The letter seeks the Prime Minister’s urgent intervention to not only withdraw th