Leaders say propaganda being spread that Maratha king was anti-Muslim, say there’s growing communal discord under NDA.
Mumbai: Amid talk of political consolidation against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra, opposition leaders and even those from the Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling party, shared stage Wednesday and invoked the perennial electoral card in the state — the Maratha king Shivaji — and together said there was growing communal discord under the current NDA government.
The leaders were at Mumbai’s Marathi Patrakar Sangh for the launch of an Urdu book Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Aur Musalman (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Muslims), authored by senior Urdu journalist Saeed Hameed.
The book seeks to highlight that the Maratha warrior king was secular, promoted communal harmony and handed key positions in his army and administration to Muslims.
Wednesday’s book launch was attended by Congress MLA Amin Patel, the Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi, the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Jitendra Awhad and Nawab Malik and Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.
The leaders said that certain people had propagandised Shivaji to be anti-Muslim, and stressed on the need to take his concept of secularism to the common man.
While the Shiv Sena has not spoken about supporting the opposition bandwagon of the Congress, NCP and other political outfits, it has used every opportunity to criticise the Narendra Modi government, despite being a part of it.
The invoking of the Maratha king is a political card that all parties play before every election in Maharashtra, more so after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP went out of their way to emphasise their devotion to Shivaji. This has contributed to the friction between allies BJP and Shiv Sena because the latter considers Shivaji to be its icon.
‘Society forgetting Shivaji’s teachings’
Raut, also executive editor of the Sena’s mouthpiece publication Saamana, stressed that Shivaji never indulged in the politics of hatred.
“I recently heard Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath comparing PM Narendra Modi to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. But Maharaj never indulged in the politics of hatred,” he said.
“The country’s social climate today is such that nobody will take Maharaj’s real teachings forward,” he added. “People have divided him among themselves and spread propaganda that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was against Muslims for their own selfish interests.”
The Sena leader also praised former Congress chief minister A.R. Antulay for being among the first rulers in the state to popularise Shivaji’s real administrative acumen.
The NCP’s Awhad, in turn, praised Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s father, Keshav Thackeray, for his writings on Shivaji. He said Keshav Thackeray’s writings accurately reflected the warrior king’s ideology.
“Some political parties have stayed alive on the propaganda that Shivaji was against Muslims,” Awhad said.
NCP leader Malik said Right-wing political parties today do not understand the meaning of communal harmony and secularism. “It does not mean that a Hindu should read the namaaz or a Muslim should perform an aarti. It means that we are there for each other to share our joys,” he said.
Malik added that Raut promised to publish the Marathi translation of Hameed’s book in Saamana without any alterations although it contains references to how Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who is said to have coined the term ‘Hindutva,’ misrepresented Shivaji’s ideology.
Book only the second Urdu title on Shivaji
Speaking at the book launch, author Hameed said this was only the second book on Shivaji to be published in the Urdu press. He also said the book highlights the fact that the Maratha king appointed Muslims to eminent positions in his navy, his army and as his bodyguards.
He said what people mostly hear are communally charged stories pitting Shivaji against Muslim rulers such as Afzal Khan or Aurangzeb. “But what we don’t see is that those were political wars. They did not have anything to do with religion or ideology,” Hameed added.