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Why only Akbar? Ashoka too was great

Why only Akbar? Ashoka too was great

Author: Rajeev Ranjan Roy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 24, 2006

Why only Akbar, and not Samrat Ashoka be commemorated for the "values" they stood for is the common refrain from the historians over the Indian History Congress (IHC)'s proposal to call a special session to mark 400th anniversary of 16th century great Mughal emperor.

"It is not only Akbar, but there are many other emperors and personalities that need to be remembered with an equal amount of respect for their liberal, secular, and humanitarian values," Dr S Inyat Zaidi, a senior professor of History at Jamia Milia Islamia said.

The Government on Tuesday informed the Rajya Sabha that IHC wanted to convene a special session of the Congress to commemorate 400th anniversary of Akbar. "No denying the fact that Akbar was a great emperor. He preached liberal values of tolerance, secularism, and co-existence. He inherited these values from the emperors like King Ashoka. It would have been in the fitness of things had IHC formed a committee to suggest more names to be remembered for their great contributions in maintaining the country's social fabric," Prof Zaidi, also a member of IHC, said.

"Had I been asked for a suggestion, I would have asked to call a special session to remember the contributions of Ashoka and Akbar in the genesis of a liberal, secular and humane society. This could have saved the IHC from unsavoury criticism from certain academic quarters. Still I believe the IHC would come out with more names in days to come. Akbar should not be the end of the road," Prof Zaidi said.

With over 1,400 historians as its members from across the country, IHC is dominated by Leftists historians. As a result, the Congress' move for a special session to commemorate Akbar is being seen as an attempt to "appease a certain segments" of the "academics, polity, and society" for political ends. "It is certainly an appeasement move orchestrated by a section of Leftist historians at IHC," a historian, pleading anonymity, said.

"I would not agree with the proposition that the proposal is a move to appease anybody or any groups. Only the narrow-minded people would think along these lines. Akbar was a great visionary. He talked of secularism and co-existence at a time when the West was indulged in cleansing and killings. Still I recommend that more emperors or the personalities who championed the values of secularism and co-existence be commemorated," Prof Aditya Mukherjee of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said.

"No doubt, Akbar was great. Why not other emperors? It is strange that IHC is glamourising individual. But will the special session of IHC would discuss only the nobility of Akbar's policies or would it also discuss the condition of peasantry in his time," Dr Kapil Kumar, professor of History at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), asked.

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