Owning the future is the prerogative of power. Yogi Adityanath is as much into the future with the first paperless budget, chic new airports and FDI-friendly schemes, as he is with the past with the Ram Temple and ‘love jihad’ laws. He started by honouring Uttar Pradesh’s Hindu past with a new moniker, Prayagraj, for Allahabad. In 2020, he renamed the Mughal Museum in Agra after Chhatrapati Shivaji. Now, what does Shivaji have to do with Uttar Pradesh, liberal historians and academics ask. Everything. History is a trickster, whose legerdemain is forgetfulness and ignorance.
The legacy of the great Shivaji lives on in Hindustan as northern India was called in its medieval age—in the august form of the powerful Maratha warrior-statesman, Mahadji Shinde aka Scindia, ancestor of BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. It was Mahadji who defeated the Mughal general Ismail Beg and retook Agra.
The BJP is fast getting a bad rep for changing history. But history has a habit of changing. History’s contempt for posterity ensures its reign over the past and the future, as the present is in a constant state of flux. In 1788, Mahadji Scindia became the Mughal Empire’s de facto ruler by reinstating the deposed Emperor Shah Alam II and establishing a permanent Maratha garrison in Delhi to rule Hindustan.
His powerful military was created and led by legendary French soldier of fortune Benoit de Boigne. Recommended by Warren Hastings to the Nawab of Oudh, de Boigne became Mahadji’s sword arm. It was de Boigne who massacred the Rathore cavalry when Moghul forces defected to Jodhpur. Later an indigo merchant in Lucknow, de Boigne was recalled by Mahadji to Mathura. The Jaipur and Jodhpur rajas in concert with Beg’s Mughal army once again went to battle against Mahadji who decimated them.
De Boigne annihilated the Holkars, Mahadji’s main Maratha rivals. In those tumultuous times, Hindus allied with Mughals while foreigners commanded Hindu armies against a combination of Rajputs and Muslims. After Mahadji died, Colonel Malleson, author of Final French Struggles in India and on the Indian Seas, called him the most far-sighted statesman India had ever produced who aimed to “unite all the native powers of India in one great confederacy.” De Boigne, as Mahadji’s administrator, was the most advanced official of the times; an irony that a Frenchman should introduce reforms no maharaja had before.
Mahadji was impressed by de Boigne’s decision to award financial compensation and land to disabled soldiers and relatives of soldiers killed in action. Medical aid on the battlefield was first introduced in India by de Boigne. He was also the first general who introduced civil administration in Uttar Pradesh. So popular was he that the province mourned his passing. This complex play of power and pragmatic alliances regardless of race or religion was the precursor to Independence in which Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Marathas played a seminal role in Hindustan, which includes present Uttar Pradesh. Yogi has an illustrious legacy to uphold. The past is where the future is incubated.
Ravi Shankar firstname.lastname@example.org