Bringing Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh into the AMU Debate: Sangh Giroh’s Self-Goal?
The Aligarh Muslim University, which is facing systematic assaults from the Hindutva forces on the pretext of a fake debate created around the portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the students’ union office of the university, is now being plunged into another controversy. The Hindutva forces are at it once again! While the controversy began with grandson of the late Jat king Mahendra Pratap Singh reached Aligarh with his grandfather’s portrait and demanded that the same be displayed at AMU since “he had donated the land to the institution”. He also demanded the name of the university should be changed and it should be named after his grandfather so that everyone becomes aware of his contribution to the institution.
The Hindutva elements plunged into the scene sensing an opportunity to further the communal polarization by pitting Jinnah against Mahendra Pratap Singh. Ghanshyam Lodhi, the state president of Hindu Jagran Manch said that “Mahendra Pratap Singh’s portrait should not only be installed in the campus, it should be present in all the offices of the university.” Mahendra Nath Pandey, the state president of BJP too joined the bandwagon and said that “There is no need to waste time on Jinnah, who was responsible for destroying the integrity of the nation.” (TOI Agra, 6th May 2018)
The main argument of Hindutva forces is that AMU administration is ignoring the contribution of Mahendra Pratap Singh. In fact, they have attempted to flare up tension in the region with the demand of celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the Jat Raja in 2014. What is the reality though? Mahendra Pratap Singh’s portrait is prominently displayed in the central library of AMU. Further, he was also felicitated by the university in 1977 on the occasion of the centenary celebration of Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO). The Indian Government also released a stamp to honour his lifelong contributions.
If the Sangh giroh had bothered to do a background check on Mahendra Pratap Singh, they would not have dared to bring him into this controversy.
Socialist India summarizes the exciting life that this Jat Raja lived and this life is a complete anathema to everything that Hindutva believes in:
- Mahendra Pratap was born in a princely Jat family of Hathras district. He received his education from Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO). He married a Sikh woman from Jind. Even though he couldn’t complete his education; throughout his life he remained true to the secular and rational values that he received in Aligarh.
- In spite of the fact that very few from the princely estates identified with the freedom struggle, Mahendra Pratap plunged into the freedom struggle. He participated in the Calcutta session of Congress in 1906, where he met many leaders of the swadeshi movement, inspired by whom he took many measures to develop artisans and handicraft industry in his region. He also organized anti-untouchability programmes in his area.
- The high point of his participation in the freedom struggle was the formation of first provisional government of India in Afghanistan during the First World War. The provisional government was conceived as a rallying point to create unrest in the North West frontier and was inspired by the Khilafat movement. The provisional government wanted to bring in Russia into the picture; however these attempts could succeed only after the October revolution in 1917.
- Mahendra Pratap Singh not only met Lenin, he also saw him in high esteem. This was the same Lenin, whose statue was toppled by the saffron lumpens in Belonia of Tripura few months ago. Socialist India presents Mahendra Pratap’s reminiscences of his meeting with Lenin:
My INTERVIEW WITH COMRADE LENIN
“This is the story of 1919. I had come back to Russia, from Germany. I stayed at the palatial building of the former Sugar-king. Moulana Barkatullah could establish his head quarter at this place. He was in very good relation with the Russian Foreign Office. When there was, scarcity of food in the city we were right royally feasted. My Indian friends who had started on this journey with, me from Berlin could also come and gather here. One evening we received a phone-call from Soviet Foreign Office. I was told that someone was coming and that I should hand over my pamphlets to the man. This I did. Next morning was the day when I with my friends were to meet Comrade Lenin at the Kremlin. Prof. Vosnesensky took us to the ancient Imperial Palace of Moscow. We passed through the guards. We went upstairs. We entered a big room ‘with a big table at which was sitting the famous Red, Leader Comrade Lenin. I being at the head of the party entered first and Proceeded towards the figure sitting right before me .To my astonishment the man or the hero stood up suddenly, went to a corner and fetched a small chair and put the chair near his office chair. And as I arrived by his side he asked me to sit down. For a, moment I thought in my mind, where to sit, asking myself, should I sit on this small chair brought by Mr. Lenin himself or should I sit on one of the huge easy chairs covered with Morocco leather. I decided to sit on that small chair and sat down, while my friends, Moulana Barkatullah and others took their seats on richly upholstered chairs.
Comrade Lenin asked me, in what language he was to address me-English, French, German or Russian. I told him that we should better speak in English. And I presented to him my book of the Religion of Love. To my astonishment he said that he had already read it. Quickly arguing in my mind i could see that the pamphlets demanded by the Foreign Office a day earlier were meant for Lenin himself. Mr. Lenin said that my book was “Tolstoyism”. I presented to him also my plan of having notes repayable not in gold or silver but in more necessary commodities such as wheat, rice, butter, oil, coal, etc. We had quite a long conversation. Mr. Lenin had a few words to say to all of us. So much so that Lenin also asked a couple of questions of a servant of Moulana Barkatullah who remained standing a bit far. Prof. Vosnesensky also did not sit.
It was after this interview that the foreign office decided that I must accompany His Excellency Mr. Surits, the first Russian ambassador to the court of Afghanistan. My job was to introduce Mr. Surits to King Amanullah Khan. Of course, the official position of the ambassador needed not any introduction of some private character. But it was thought that as I was a personal friend of the King I could better plead personally on behalf of Red Bear.”
- And, yes, one more thing Mahendra Pratap Singh always saw Hindutva forces as his political opponent. He defeated the Jan Sangh candidates in the Lok Sabha elections of both 1952 and 1957. The candidate in 1957 who had to bite the dust was none other than Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who subsequently founded BJP and was also, became the Prime Minister of India.
So, saffron buddies, that’s why we say some reading always helps.