27 January 2018
Some questions for the Karni Sena
Just back after seeing the film Padmavat.
Bhansali has done a superb job though personally I liked his Bajirao Mastani more.
There is nothing in the film that is demeaning of Queen Padmavati or the Rajput, rather a glorification which brings out the prudence and valour of the Queen and the ethical principles even during ‘fight-to-the finish’ battle with a monster like Khilaji, that the King followed.
But there are some questions that the Karni Sena may like to ponder.
(1) When the King of Chittor sought help from other Rajput Kings they declined. Consequently, he fought alone. The King rightly appealed to other Rajput kings to unite to defeat Khilaji or risk losing their kindom too one-by-one. Khilaji also sent a message to the same kings to keep away or face his wrath. It seems the other Rajput kings were either too afraid of Khilaji or wanted to perhaps settle old scores with the King of Chittor. Their lack of courage led to the eventual killing of King of Chittor.
Will the karni Sena now launch as agitation against the heirs of these Kings who failed to help King of Chittor and thus indirectly helped Khilaji? Will they at least demand public apology from the heirs of these kings. Instead they are asking it from Bhansali. Why?
(2) Queen Padmini’s johar could have been avoided had King of Chittor been a realist and not chained himself with ‘ethical principles’ and the other Rajput kings had helped in time. Moreover, because of the actions of these Rajput Kings the entire course of Indian history changed, and the power of the barbaric rulers was consolidated. Had they fought in union, Rajputs could have occupied the throne of Delhi and saved rest of India from barbaric rulers but it appears they were complacent. Why? Was it their lack of strategic acumen?
(3) From the movie, Queen Padmavati appears to be shrewder than her husband and could correctly guess the evil intentions of Khilaji. If this is to be generalised then, it is in the interest of the Rajput to protect their women who are shrewder and prudent. Could we expect that the Karni Sena use its might to support Beti Bacho Beti Padhao in Rajasthan and free the women from the curse of dowry deaths and girl-child killing as a respect to Queen Padmavati’s wisdom?
(4) It seems that the King of Chittor didn’t trust Khilaji yet the shackles of self or the clan-imposed ‘ethical principles’ pushed him to make unwise strategic moves -the real reason for his downfall. In the Ramayan Lord Rama hiding behind a tree shot an arrow to kill Vali. Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to attack even Bhishma. In both cases, realism dictated not flowery ethical principles. Yet the King didn’t learn from these scriptures. Furthermore, it seems the King of Chittor didn’t learn from Rajput history either. About 100 years before the Khilaji aggression, Ghori betrayed Prithviraj Chauhan. Who is to be blamed for such grave lapses?
(5) When the Rajput sentries saw the big guns brought by Khilaji, they say to each other ‘what kind of weapon is this?’. Obviously, the Rajput had not updated warfare technology. Who is responsible?
(6) About 300 years later again Rana Pratap had to fight Akbar all alone as no other Rajput king came to his rescue. So, it seems the Rajput don’t learn from history but rather help the enemy as the Raj Purohit of the Chittor King leading to Khilaji aggression eventually. And the Karni Sena should not forget Raja Jaychand either.
(7) Another 400 years, and we have the case of the Jodhpur Maharaja. Jinnah, offered a blank cheque to him to join Pakistan instead of India when partition took place. But thanks to the acumen of Sardar Patel, that Jinnah plan was thwarted, and Jodhpur joined Indian union. What would have been the situation of Jodhpur today if it was in Pakistan?
It is easier to damage property, burn cars, block roads, and hold the whole nation to ransom but hard to ponder over the failures of Rajput in historical times and learn from it.
Padmavat offers that opportunity.
(Milind Sathye holds an academic position in Australia. Views expressed above are his own)