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Shahane’s Politics: Ideology or Identity
From the very first part we accused Girish Shahane of playing Caste/Identity politics, hence the onus is on us to elaborate on how we can say that. Reading a writers’ oeuvre, reveals much of his politics and biases.
(a) Source of Screenshot: here
Please notice how Girish Shahane even cites references to build up a nuanced defense of the Marathi hero’s sacking of Surat. And now read his statements below dismissing the three Rajput heroes, each of who had a military career superior to Shivaji, frivolously and mocking.
(b) Source of Screenshot: Article under discussion
His comical usage of the word “retreat” to not just mock the three historical individuals but to also create a sense of disgust in the reader towards them and in extension the Rajput community. On the other hand, the Maratha hero was known for retreating, surrendering and even writing maafinamas - but can we expect Shahane to use it against him?
In this article he again used the tragedy of Krishna Kumari, to peddle narrative against Rajputs. But it is not Maratha history with its Saffron Flag, cries of “Hindu Swarajya”, tall tales of Shivaji’s invincibility ”, Shivaji’s Statue at Mumbai or patriarchy within Maratha & Marathi Brahmin families that upset Mumbai resident Shahane’s secular and progressive conscience, but it is the Rajputs up in the north. Shahane is a Karhade Brahmin, a subcaste of Marathi Brahmins, that benefited a lot due to the Confederacy.
Both the articles published on Samir Patil’s Scroll.in, have the same author - Girish Shahane, a marathi brahmin
Please notice the contrast how he treats Babur,an individual warlord and how treats Rajput community (an ethnic group). In the first, he morns a sense of public injustice meted out to Babur and then he gradually builds up the story of a cultured emperor with much nuance and careful words, invoking the best of Babur.
In the second, he casually dumps an entire ethnic community’s past into garbage. Read: Rebuttal.
Fun fact ##: Shahane eulogizes Babur, but at the same time he dismisses Aurangzeb. This despite the fact that Aurangzeb didn’t match Babur’s brutality. In fact, Aurangzeb was still an Indianized monarch, unlike Babur a complete foreigner. Or, maybe Sahane does so, because Aurangzeb was an archenemy of Maharashtrian hero Shivaji and Girish Shahane is a Marathi Brahmin. Once again, this hints at his strong prejudice.
I. Narrative Shaping: Maratha Brahmin Hegemony
Sgn Cmmdr Uday Kulkarni is a prominent Marathi rightwinger who in order to polish Maratha history attacks Rajputs. Eg herein, he blames Maratha debacle at Panipat on “treachery” of Rajputs.
In a multicultural society, it is common for people preserving or promoting their past. The Ashrafs followed by Sikh intellectuals are the best when it comes to preserving and promoting one’s past. Unfortunately, Marathi Elites go even further as they smear others to market their past. This is also possible because since unlike the rest, the various Patils and Deshmukhs enjoy unparalleled hegemonic clout over Cinema, Academia and Media houses, apart from enjoying political influence both in the Nagpur and the Lutyen discourses.
Ashutosh Gowariker, another Marathi Karhade brahmin, produced and directed “Panipat-the Betrayal (2019)” not just promoted “Marathas as saviors of India” but went further to accuse North Indian communities of betrayal - even parodying the Jat raja Surajmal.
Similarly, through “Jodha-Akbar (2008)” he stereotyped Rajputs as merely “wife-providers” for Mughals and thereby he also pushed all such examples from Deccan (of elite Marathi Brahmin & Maratha) under the carpet.
Like Girish Shahane, Aneesh Gokhale is a Marathi Brahmin and similar to him, he is an amateur who blogs on history for a mainstream-portal (here dnaindia.com). Most of his oeuvre is about promoting Peshwa History; however even on his portal, he takes potshots at Rajputs. The only difference is - he alienates the rajput community through rightwing reasoning.
When Shahane and Patil’s Scroll.in opened up their rogue caste-campaign against the Rajputs, it was soon followed by swarms of social-media influencers,Marathi brahmin and some Marathas. They would start with posing this rhetorical question and then answer it with the most bizarre reasons. If the Rajput armies had no creative staretgies, how could they hold up against enemies more powerful than themselves for at least from days of Harsha upto the arrival of British - even though their population depleted, many sublineages vanished and they saw political as well as socioeconomic decline.
Mr Mahurkar, is Deputy Editor at IndiaToday & a Maratha aristocrat
There is nothing wrong with preserving ones own History, but it is socially unhealthy and baleful for national unity, to misuse ones clout in media, academia and cinema to run-down another community.
Hence a national discourse was setup that reduced the roughly 1500 year long recorded ethnohistory of Rajputs to “defeats” and “matrimonial relations with mughals”.
Samir Patil [L]; Girish Shahane [R]
Scroll. in is owned and published by Samir Patil, a businessman of Maratha Patil background. This provides some speculative insight into the obsession at “mainstream” Scroll.in to rundown the Rajput community (see below).
However, it would be false to blame it entirely on the Maratha-Peshwa Ambitions
II. Rajputs: Pariahs to the Liberal discourse / Rajputphobia
There are umpteen factors at play in any sociopolitical process. As a middle-class Rajput who , who also strictly believes in divorcing religion and politics, I remain open supporter of liberalism and progress over mind-numbing stagnant conservatism. However I must add that in the Indian society - “Left-liberal” or “Right” don’t signify any opposite ideological strains, but coteries of complex interests that have only little to do with the right-left or liberal-conservative dichotomies ideologically.
Though both the Left and the Right are dominated by the same few Castes, all of which are Forward in nature (more privileged than an average Rajput), for the Left the Rajputs hold the same meaning as the Muslims have for the Right. This is best exemplified by Girish Shahane below.
Notice the above, how bigotry against Rajputs — even to the extent of peddling falsehood, is seen as a proof of ones “secular or liberal credentials” or to fill-in an empty resume to rise up the ladder of acceptance in the circles. So pronounced is this hatred, that even articles of this nature could be passed and published without reservations, wherein the author (a north indian brahmin) uses the excuse of defending a medieval Turkic warlord, peddle a lame accusation against the 50 million-odd Community.
And it isn’t just unintelligent wannabes like this Sharma,who uses the skewed sex ratio of the state of Rajasthan to blame the Rajputs, but even 81 year old veterans like Prof Harbans Mukhia, a veteran professor of Mughal History. Mukhia even congratulated Shahane for “taking down” the Rajput community - the congratulatory note can be read here. In an article in BBC Hindi (which can be read here), Mukhia even made bold assertions like " अगर हम आज़ादी की लड़ाई की भी बात करें तो राजपूतों की कोई ऐसी भूमिका नहीं थी. बल्कि राजपूत राजाओं ने अंग्रेज़ों का ही साथ दिया था. जितने राजा थे उनमें से दो चार को छोड़ दिया जाए तो किसी ने अंग्रेज़ो के ख़िलाफ़ लड़ाई नहीं लड़ी." (as if Royal social-class and Rajput ethnonym are same? ) and “आधुनिक भारत के निर्माण में भी राजपूतों की कोई ऐसी भूमिका नहीं रही है.” (maybe Rajput sportspersons, army veterans, politicians, writers & teachers must organize on communal-lines and wear identity on their sleeves like Jews & Sikhs for better identification)
We shall deconstruct Mukhia’s Rajputphobia somewhere else.
But these examples bolster the fact that either they are too overconfident on their knowledge on “rajputs” or it is outright hatred. Post-independence as Rajas and Zamindars vanished, the Rajput laity who were predominantly farmers or clan-retainers became an easy target of the Nehruvian Ruling class, composed of Brahmins,Khatris and Jats, which feared a rebellion by the former — this fear was reflected in Anurag Kashyap’s Gulaal(2009). However, even though the fears were unfounded, hatred against the Rajputs through media and literature, their vilification and perpetual misrepresentation of their aspirations continued to be normalized by both “mainstream media” and “Bollywood”.
Mainstreaming Anti-Rajput Hatred: A Glimpse
These Bigots call themselves “liberals”. Have we ever seen liberals from Rajput background target anyother community the way these Bhatts, Swamis or Pattnaiks have been doing for decades now?
These Influencers (eg Sharma, Mukhia, Shahane or Pattnaik come from Privileged sedentary backgrounds that owe their political relevance only to the British Colonization and had no skin-in-the-game until 1857. Post-independence, under the guise of “Left-liberal”, after having grabbed power they began to institutionalize and normalize hatred against Rajput laity via Media, Cinema and Literature, even exploiting ordinary unsuspecting Rajput men and women.
III. Alienation of Rajput Voices
The Scroll.in led by Naresh Fernandes actively muzzled counter-responses by scholars, civil activists, and writers from the Rajput community, hinting a psychological war against the latter.
Furthermore, for a population of 45 million Hindu-Rajputs (and 18 million Muslim Rajputs) in the Subcontinent (as per joshuaproject.net), there would be an upper-middle-class of at least a few millions. Yet isnt it a big disappointment that we havent funded our own institutions, our own historians and social-thinkers to reclaim our voices from a bunch of dholkis.
The narrative was the making of the ambitious Marathi brahmin lobby, but despite the fact that it doesnt survive a scratch it continued to thrive only due to the 70-year old Nehruvian-Savarkarite culture of hatred against the Rajputs. The issue was only compounded by the total absent of Rajput intellectual voices even on issues directly linked to them.
Notice, how histories of Turks, Mughals, Sikhs, Marathas, Ahoms & even Jats has a better representation. Therefore, it is not even unfathomable why the histories of above groups and the Rajput history sit on opposite ends of public perception — the latter often portrayed in the most dark and revolting colours. And even though recently, the Jats take a lead in peddling hate against Rajputs, they cannot resist appropriating Rajput clan histories on the other [ Check the Jatland.com for instance].
The unsuspecting nature, lack of survival instincts, lack of Communitarian & sociopolitical zeal to improve the collective lot has only added to laziness of the Rajput bourgeois which began rising only post 1980. This is also why the Rajput movements fail since the lacunae of bourgeois leadership is filled in by the lumpens.
Finally, it is the Rajputs (both seniors and youngsters) to blame for not having reclaimed their voices, funded scholarships on social-sciences & mobilized the community against its systematic exploitation by a handful of cowardly Savarns.
Those who cannot standup for themselves, their kith and kin are bound to be marginalized in the Democratic game.