War is Between Rulers, Not Religions: Ram Puniyani in Viral Video
“Ye baat Hindu Musalman ka sawal hai, ya do raajao ka sawal hai?”
The central theme of the controversy surrounding director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming Padmavati appears to be a communal one. Religious right-wing organisations like the Karni Sena have broken down film sets, attacked the director and placed a bounty on the heads of leading actors – seemingly due to their objection to Bhansali’s attempt to "distort" Rajput history.
But as former engineer and human rights activist, Professor Ram Puniyani puts it: “What is this history? Did it tell us the stories about the battle between two kings or two communities?”
In a viral video, posted on the Facebook page, ‘Ye Bik Gayi Hai Gormint’, Puniyani rips apart the ‘Hindu vs Muslim narrative’ that we’re often told about. In the video, which can be traced back to 2016, Puniyani uses a few examples from history to explain his point.
Tipu Sultan vs The Marathas
Puniyani spoke about the the Maratha-Mysore conflict of the 1700s, when the British had recruited the Maratha army to take on Tipu Sultan.
After the ‘Hindu’ Maratha army ransacked the Sringeri monastery in Mysore, Tipu Sultan offered his resources for the consecration of the Goddess. He also sent along his token gifts for the idol. A Hindu army destroyed a temple, and a Muslim ruler sent money and resources to rebuild it, Puniyani reiterated.
Akbar vs Maharana Pratap
Referring to the row over renaming Delhi’s ‘Akbar Road’ to ‘Maharana Pratap Marg’ – that made news in May this year – Puniyani spoke about The Battle of Haldighati.
The 1576 battle saw Akbar’s forces, led by his ‘mukhya senapati’ (commander-in-chief), the Hindu Man Singh I of Amber, take on Maharana Pratap’s powerful army.
Interestingly, the commander-in-chief of Maharana Pratap’s army, was a Muslim by the name of Hakim Khan Sur. This story, says Puniyani, speaks about a war between two rulers, not religions.
Shivaji vs Afzal Khan
Puniyani says that while Chhatrapati Shivaji has been glorified as a great ‘Hindu’ leader, few speak about how he was mindful and respectful of other faiths. When he sent his army to plunder the treasures of erstwhile Surat, he had asked them to follow a few simple orders. That they would not allow any harm to be inflicted upon the Hajrat Baba ki Masjid, or Father Andros Pinto’s Ashram – he asked that they make offering on his behalf at both sites instead. He also instructed them to immediately return any treasures of someone belonging to another faith.
Puniyani also spoke Shivaji’s mighty defeat of the giant pathan Afzal Khan. Shivaji was going to meet Khan without any weapons, but his bodyguard persuaded him to carry the famous ‘iron claws’ which came in handy when Khan attacked. The bodyguard in question? Rustam Zawan – a Muslim man. Puniyani continues with the tale, saying after Shivaji killed Khan, the latter’s assistant, Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, a Hindu, tried to kill Shivaji to avenge his masters death.
So, Puniyani asks: “yeh larai dharm ki hai ya satta ki”. Or simply put, have we been handed down a biased perspective of history? Could it be, that a war between two kings was just that – a war between two kings?