Nehru is the Akbar of modern India, and the BJP is its Aurangzeb

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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A Tale of Two Emperors

Nehru : the Akbar of modern India

By Justice Markandey Katju

Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) was the creator of the Mughal Empire in India, while Emperor Aurangzeb (1618 -1707) was its destroyer.

Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, was in India only from 1526 when he invaded India to 1530, when he died, and this short period too was spent mostly in wars with the Rajputs. His son Humayun was chased out of India by the Afghan Sher Shah Suri, and spent a long period abroad, and could hardly rule long in India.

It was only Humayun's son Akbar who really created and consolidated the Mughal Empire, and he can be called the Father of the Indian Nation

Akbar was a far sighted ruler, who realised that India had tremendous diversity, and hence to rule it required giving equal respect to all religions and communities. Hence he adopted the policy of suleh-e-kul, i.e. universal toleration and respect for all religions.

Although a Muslim, he appointed many Hindus to high posts, e.g. Todar Mal, who was equivalent to the Union Finance Minister of today, Man Singh and Birbal, who were army commanders, etc

It was because of this inclusive, secular policy that the Mughal Empire lasted so long.

On the other hand, during, and soon after, Aurangzeb's death almost the whole Mughal Empire, which Akbar had built so assiduously, disintegrated, and only a few years after Aurangzeb's death in 1707 all that was left of the Empire was Delhi and its vicinity.

''Saltanat-e-Shah Alam

Az Dilli ta Paalam'''

How did this sudden collapse take place?

The blame must entirely rest on Aurangzeb. While in personal life he was honest ( he earned his livelihood by making caps ), unfortunately, he also had a streak of bigotry in him. He reimposed jeziya on Hindus, which had been abolished by his great-grandfather Akbar. He got executed the 9th Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, because he refused to convert to Islam,and got entombed alive Guru Gobind Singh's sons.

Though many grants to Hindu temples have been found issued in his name, he also destroyed many temples, including the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi ( destroyed in 1669 ), and the Keshav Deo temple in Mathura ( destroyed in 1670 ). This has been admitted by the eminent historian of AMU Prof Irfan Habib.

Consequently, he antagonised Rajputs, Sikhs, Marathas, etc who all rose up in arms against him. He spent the second half of his 50 year reign in south India, fighting against the Marathas and local kings. He did not believe, like Akbar, in a policy of conciliation and tolerance, and instead behaved like a bigoted Wahabi, who insisted that everyone obey his whims and fancies, and surrender before him. This unwise policy of bigotry and despotism resulted in reduction within a few years of his death in 1707 of a huge Empire stretching from Afghanistan in the west to Assam in the east, and from Kashmir in the north to parts of South India, to only Delhi and its nearabouts.

Even today people in India and Pakistan are suffering due to the foolishness of Aurangzeb. His destruction of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi is directly responsible for the ongoing turmoil relating to the Gyanvapi mosque ( which is doing more harm to India's Muslims than to its Hindus ), and a similar situation may develop soon in Mathura.

Though Aurangzeb was a totally honest man ( he earned his living by making caps), he seemed to lack the great quality which Akbar had, of accomodating everyone and pursuing a tolerant and flexible, instead of a bigoted and rigid policy. Akbar realized that India is a country of great diversity, and so only a tolerant, flexible and accomodating policy can keep the Empire together. This realization evidently Aurangzeb lacked. and the whole country has paid the price.

Jawaharlal Nehru is the Akbar of modern India, and the BJP is its Aurangzeb.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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