Distortion of history has become passé these days. Most of them go unnoticed. Famously we Indians have been branded by western scholars as a people without a sense of history. But Indians have lived through millennia preserving a collective memory and response that shaped our civilizational, cultural response.
The mob violence in Jaipur two days ago when film director Sanjay Bhansali was roughed up on the set for distorting history hit headlines is drawing wide condemnation.
As a successful producer of many blockbusters Bhansali has many fans. The distortion aspect of Rani Padmani’s life, the theme of the new Bhansali venture has been denied in the wake of the mayhem in Jaipur.
In the normal course that would have been the end of the controversy. But the overzealous historians of the now discredited Left school have seen to it that the protesters had a point.
These eminent historians often masquerade as Modi baiters, Hindutva opposition and secular torch bearers. But unique about their fantasies on history is that they are inimical to Hindu traditions, belief and understanding.
In the collective Hindu memory Rani Padmini is an icon of pride, chastity and undaunted rebellion against foreign marauders. She committed sati to protect her honour and dismay the invader who imagined usurping her. In that sense historically she has been a symbol of Indian resurgent womanhood.
Her tormentor Allaudin Khilji undoubtedly in the Indian mind the villain. Bhansali was supposed to have tried to paint a salacious filmi distortion. Even if he did not mean it, the hordes of historians who came out in his support have spoiled the case for him.
They say Rani Padmini is a fictional or folklore character. They say since the Rani never lived there was no question of hurting anybody’s sentiment and that the film maker was free to do whatever he thought was right.
In that case was Khilji also a fictional character? They have not answered this part. But Rani Padmini falls in the same category for these historians who earlier propounded the fake Aryan invasion theory.
Then they said Ram never lived and Ayodhya was in Lanka or Madhya Pradesh and Krishna and Mahabharata are myths. It is another matter that ancient religious are considered valuable sources of history by modern unbiased historians.
In fact, Bhansali’s supporters have landed him into an irredeemable soup. And compounded his sin. We cannot have selective white washing and suppression of history to suit the Left-pseudo secular narrative. In their history, Mohammad Ghazni never plundered Somnath, Prithviraj never defeated and pardoned Ghori and Rana Pratap never fought a war and Haldikhati was a figment of Hindu Jingoism.
Are these historians of India or Arabia? Actually historians of Arabia like Al Biruni (Tarikh Al-Hind) and Ibn Battuta were more factual than these card-holder history distortionists. Left historians have double standards.
The present controversy on the film script on Rani Padmini cannot be seen in isolation. It comes in a series of insults and denigrations to Hindu nationalist icons, gods and goddesses and leaders in the guise of poetic license and creative freedom.
The issue at stake here is not the film script of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It has moved on to reveal the mindset of closet historians and their cohorts.
They have in their anxiety to divide India into multiple cultural blocs perceived a Hindu versus Muslim history where the former has no history at all to boast about. They have always supported views that distort the image and portrayal of heroes.
From the theory of Aryan invasion, which has finally been proved wrong, to calling Rama and Krishna myth, they have waged many a wars to deny and deprive us of our history.
In an extensively researched book, Rani Padmini: The Heroine of Chittor B K Karkra has established that Rani Padmini was indeed a historical character. Several authors, including Amir Khusro, who was the official royal poet of the Khilji, have written that the Sultan ordered the massacre of 30,000 people inside the Chittor fort when he learnt that Rani Padmini chose to become ashes than be possessed by him.
There is almost a conspiratorial silence in the several literary works of two centuries following the period of Rani Padmini (around 1303 AD). It is not clear if any historical evidence in the form of royal records and diaries were deliberately destroyed. But even during that period, the public memory of the queen continued to flourish, as the subsequent works indicate.
When Wendy Doniger calls Sri Ramakrishna Paramahans a pedophile, they hail her as an academic, when she writes on unspeakable relations between Sita and Hanuman or Parvati and Nandi, they accept her writings as Freudian.
When M F Hussain draws our goddesses in the nude, we are told it is freedom of expression. When the image of Rani Padmini is besmirched by a filmmaker, with wet scenes and low imagination, the Bollywood remembers freedom of speech.
It is not as though India does not allow poetic freedom. There have been films where narration has taken on a colour that is different from the real. But they have been done to enhance the personality of the character.
For instance, in Anarkali, Salim, the son of Akbar is portrayed in such extreme romantic texture, whereas reality was that Salim was a cruel power seeker. There are several such examples.
But when it comes to nationalist icons, a line has to be drawn. Rani Padmini is revered all over India and even worshipped in some parts of Rajasthan. She represents the spirit of woman who refused to surrender to the lust of the invader. To portray her as imaging herself in the arms of the invader is a gross violation of fact and unacceptable poetic imagination.
(Writer is Member, BJP Central Committee on Training, and Committee on Publications. He can be contacted at [email protected] Twitter @drbalashankar. Ph.09811971071)