Lachit Borphukan: A new Hindu icon to rewrite Assam history…

An interesting piece by Anupam Bordoloi in HT.

How political parties search for new icons to rewrite history:

In 1576, the all-conquering Mughal emperor Akbar defeated Rajput king Maharana Pratap in the storied Battle of Haldighati. Historians have offered enough evidence to back this, but Hindu right-wing groups in their fanciful campaign to “correct” the course of history seek to dispute this. There is, however, little doubt about who was the winner in the decisive Battle of Saraighat in 1671 when the Ahom army led by Lachit Borphukan defeated the invading Mughals and ended their dreams of conquering Assam.

The story, however, is not about the winner or the loser in the Battle of Saraighat, fought along and on the Brahmaputra and is still considered as one of the greatest military exploits by an Indian military strategist.

Long before the BJP won the assembly polls in Assam last year to form the government for the first time in the state, the party and its ideological mentor – the Rashtriya Syawamsevak Sangh (RSS) – had set in motion a grand plan to retell the region’s history from their point of view.

And who can be a better icon than Lachit Borphukan – a hero for every Assamese – to speak for the BJP?

Before the Assam assembly elections, obscure writers and experts appeared, most of them online, to extol Lachit Borphukan, the “great Hindu warrior who defeated Muslim invaders”. Most of them compared Lachit to Maratha king Shivaji and Maharana Pratap. All were Hindus, we were told, who fought and defeated Muslim tyrants.

Ahead of the polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too saluted the Ahom general on his birth anniversary, celebrated as ‘Lachit Divas’ in Assam. Since then, the BJP and other right-wing leaders left no occasion to hail the Hindu warrior.

But anyone who is aware of Assam’s — and Ahom history — know that Lachit’s battle was not against Muslims. He was merely fighting an enemy to save his own land, his own people.

The BJP has conveniently forgotten to mention that Lachit’s army had many Muslim soldiers including one who went by the name of Bagh Hazarika. Bagh is also the Assamese word for tiger.

Now, the Assam government has also made it mandatory for all schools and offices to display a portrait of Lachit, which it said will instill a sense of patriotism among all in the state.

 

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