March 06, 2017

India: Akbar’s name from Ajmer fort dropped following proposal by BJP Rajasthan minister and RSS member

The Times of India

Rajasthan minister drops Akbar’s name from Ajmer fort

Shoeb Khan | TNN | Updated: Mar 5, 2017, 01.51 AM IST

- ‘Akbar ka Qila’ was quietly renamed ‘Ajmer ka Qila and Sangrahalaya’
- The name was changed on the orders of a BJP Rajasthan minister and RSS member
- The fort, built by Akbar in 1570, carried his name even when the Rathors, Marathas and the British ruled the land

JAIPUR: A fort built by Mughal emperor Akbar and known to the ages that followed as 'Akbar ka Qila' was quietly renamed 'Ajmer ka Qila and Sangrahalaya' in 2015 merely on the verbal orders of a sub-divisional magistrate acting on the proposal of a BJP Rajasthan minister and RSS member.

No expert committee. No scrutiny by a panel of academics. Nothing. Except the whim of Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani who has in the past expounded on cow dung offering protection against radioactivity and cows exhaling pure oxygen. The fort, built by the Mughal emperor in 1570, carried his name even when the Rathors, Marathas and the British ruled the land.

The original name of the fort in Ajmer enjoys legal sanction from a gazette notification of December 12, 1968 that states the title of the fort is Akbar ka Qila, or Magazine, or Daulat Khana. No amendment has been effected since then.

Not until Rajasthan minister Vasudev Devnani, who is also an MLA from Ajmer North, had an idea he thought historic: Propose to the administration that the name be changed to 'Ajmer ka Qila'. The then sub-divisional magistrate, Harphool Yadav, consequently issued verbal orders that the name be changed. Officials then placed a plaque above the entrance that read 'Ajmer ka Qila and Sangrahalaya'.

The renaming surfaced after a letter in the last week of February by one Tarannum Chishti (identity not confirmed by police) threatened the minister, Devnani, with dire consequences if the name of the fort did not revert to the original.

Textbooks changed too

Major changes in textbooks in the state followed the 2015 renaming of the fort, including the education department dropping the suffix 'the Great' that usually follows emperor Akbar's name. Repeated calls and texts sent by TOI to the director of the state Archaeological Survey of India, Hridesh Kumar Sharma, elicited no response. The building is a declared protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India as 'Magazine building and Akbar Fort'.

Defending his decision, Devnani told TOI: "The renaming was done to respect the sentiments of the general public. This fort has always been named after the historic city of Ajmer, which has existed since the 9th century (AD), and nothing has been changed in the fort — the garden, arches, galleries etc. Above all, the structure has nothing which personally belonged to Akbar."

History contradicts Devnani's claims. The oldest reference to this fort is found in the journal of Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of King James I of England to the Mughal court. When Roe asked emperor Jahangir at the fort in 1615 for a piece of land in the Deccan, he referred to the fort as 'Akbar's palace'. A manuscript placed on a second entrance wall (on the right side) in 'Hindvi' script reads 'Akbar-Ki-Qila'. The script, in the old Devnagari, dates back 300 years.

Officials at the fort have repeatedly sought Hridesh Sharma's guidance regarding the new name on the board but have received no response.

'Ajmer Historical and Descriptive', a book by jurist and academic Har Bilas Sarda, describes the building as the royal residence of emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, indicating the historical significance of this fort.