Meet Headline Hunter Madan Dilawar — the Rajasthan Education Minister for Whom Akbar was a ‘Rapist’

Belonging to the Dalit community, the 46-year-old member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly is a Hindutva hardline leader who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — with Bajrang Dal roots.
Meet Headline Hunter Madan Dilawar — the Rajasthan Education Minister for Whom Akbar was a ‘Rapist’

New Delhi: Controversies and Rajasthan Education Minister Madan Dilawar seem to be inseparable. From ordering suspensions of Dalit and Muslim teachers to declaring Mughal Emperor Akbar a “rapist” and issuing controversial circular — making Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) mandatory for all government and private schools, he leaves no stone unturned to grab headlines.  

Belonging to the socially marginalised Dalit community, the 46-year-old member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly is a Hindutva harliner leader who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Bajrang Dal roots.

Since taking over in January, the six-term lawmaker courting controversy after controversies by calling Mughal Emperor Akbar a “rapist” and asserting that the Wright Brothers did not in fact design the airplane.

His goal has been to promote the beliefs of Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and flaunt his leadership qualities as a firebrand Hindutva figure. 

He is even referred as Rajasthan’s Narottam Mishra in certain political circles. Mishra was the home minister in the previous BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh.

Those who have been observing his politics for years say that Dilawar has been a firebrand leader of the BJP since his early days in politics, although he was not a big leader during the tenures of former chief ministers — Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

Formerly, according to the analysts, The Mooknayak talked to, Hindutva was not the primary component of his politics; but now, it has emerged as the main feature. He has climbed through the ranks over time and works to fortify the party’s position ahead of elections, especially in the RSS stronghold of Hadoti.

He was close to Pravin Togadia — an advocate for Hindu nationalism and former international working president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) — and a member of the Bajrang Dal.

Hindu nationalist militant organisation Bajrang Dal is the youth of the VHP — a member of the right-wing Sangh Parivar (the RSS).

Dilawar was one among the people who were accused of making inciting comments following the 1989 riots in Kota.

Many extreme Hindutva leaders were given a platform by the Ram temple campaign, say the observers, adding that Dilawar took advantage of the opportunity by stirring one controversy after another. His identity as a Dalit leader also helped secure higher positions in the BJP.

Suspension of Dalit, Muslim Teachers

The minister last month ordered suspension of a Dalit government primary school teacher, Hemlata Bairwa, for “hurting religious sentiments” by refusing to display a portrait of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati during the Republic Day function at her school in Baran district.

During Republic Day celebrations, the teacher put up portraits of Savitribai Phule, B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. Some teachers and local villagers sought to know why Goddess Saraswati was not included. This sparked a debate in which Bairwa questioned what role Goddess Saraswati has to play in schools and stated that Phule should be respected for emphasizing the value of education.

This provoked the locals to file a police case against her, alleging that she had “offended” religious sentiments of Hindus with her comments.

After a purported video of the incident reached Dilawar, he said that the teacher would be held accountable for giving weightage to herself so much that she  questioned the role of Goddess Saraswati in schools.

While addressing a public meeting at Kishanganj on February 22, he announced Baiwa’s suspension and investigation into the incident.

The minister was once again accused of “acting arbitrarily”. Following a complaint filed by an organization called the Sarva Hindu Samaj, he last week suspended two Muslim teachers — working in a government school in the Kota — on the grounds that they were encouraging “religious conversion”.

In a video message, the minister said that he would not allow state-run organizations to become “dens of conversion”.

The group complained that a former student who was earlier a Hindu was listed in the school registration as a Muslim.

However, one of the suspended teachers clarified that it was a case of “mistaken identity” after children at the Khajuri Odpur government school in Kota’s Sangod block organized a rally — seeking revocation of the suspension of their teachers.

The girl in question reportedly had eloped with a Muslim man from the village, which caused the confusion.

The principal of the school also confirmed that he had not yet encountered any instances of “religious conversion”.

Controversial Surya Namaskar Circular

Reiterating a 2015 directive from the former Raje administration, the state’s secondary education board issued a circular on January 23 — requiring all public and private schools to incorporate a 10-minute Surya Namaskar session into their morning assemblies.

Opposing the move, the Rajasthan Muslim Forum challenged the board’s order in the Rajasthan High Court. However, the court refused to entertain the petition.

On February 15, Dilawar restated the decision. Later, he performed the sun salutation with students at a Jaipur school as part of a quest to break the world record, in which about 1.3 crore teachers and students from all over the state participated. 

The minister further said that no faculty member or teacher would be permitted to conduct puja (worship) or offer namaz (prayer) during school hours and that any school that disobeys the state government’s circular, requiring regular Surya Namaskar, would face consequences.

Although groups claiming to speak on behalf of the Muslim community criticized the move even in 2015, the opposition finally faded.

‘Taking Rapist Akbar’s Name in India is a Sin’

Describing the 16th century Mughal emperor a “rapist” on February 27 during a curriculum review meeting in Jodhpur, Dilawar taking the former’s name in India is a “sin”.

“When we were children, we were taught that Akbar was great. But I have also heard that he used to organise ‘Meena Bazaars’, where he would pick up attractive women and girls and rape them. How can a rapist be great?” he has recently been quoted by news agency ANI as saying.

The minister added that any material that “shows national heroes in bad light” will be removed from school textbooks by a team that would assess the contents.

Leaders of the Hindu Right have often referred to Aurangzeb and Babur as “invaders”, causing an anger among a number of historians who argue that comparing Akbar to them is inappropriate. 

Dilawar stirred up controversy again on February 28, saying that an Indian named Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, not Orville and Wilbur Wright, was the first person to fly an unmanned aircraft in Mumbai. It was not documented at the time because the country was still ruled by Britishers.

“The Wright Brothers are credited for inventing airplanes. But it’s not true. In fact, an Indian called Talpade had invented an airplane prior to the Wright Brothers,” he claimed while speaking at the Rajasthan Vigyan Mahotsav’s concluding ceremony in Jaipur.

A 2019 video of Dilawar went viral on social media in January, wherein the minister is heard pleading with God to punish people who do not properly dispose of their single-use plastics by bringing them misfortune and illness. 

He remarked earlier this month that parents should also be blamed for growing number of student suicides in Kota. He noted students who have no interest in engineering or medical courses are being forced to pursue careers in these fields, and this is leading the youth to take extreme steps.

Dilawar’s Bajrand Dal Roots

Madan Dilawar began his political career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is the students’ wing of the RSS. He was initially elected from Atru seat to the Rajasthan Assembly in 1990.

He continued to represent the contingency in 1993, 1988 and 2003 when he was appointed as the minister of social welfare in the then Vasundhara Raje government. He served as a minister in Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s government as well from 1993 to 1998.

He lost the Baran-Atru Assembly seat in 2008, skipped the 2013 election and won the Ramganj Mandi seat for the BJP in 2018. In the previous year’s Assembly elections, he retained his seat.

Following the Ram temple’s consecration ceremony, which was held in Ayodhya on January 22, Dilawar vowed to have just one meal a day until a Krishna temple akin to the grand temple in Ayodhya was built at the “Krishna Janmabhoomi” in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district.

During the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation in the 1990s, he made a similar statement, saying that he would not wear a garland until a temple for Ram was built at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Dilawar’s followers presented him with two garlands, one measuring 108 feet in length and the other weighing 34 kg, on January 22 — the day the temple opened for devotees.

Dilawar had also vowed in February 1990 not to sleep in a bed unless Article 370 was scrapped.

People close to him told The Mooknayak, refusing to be named, Dilawar is “aware of the politics the RSS and his party organization value”. 

“The RSS (the ideological mentor of the BJP) wants Indian heroes to take the place of Muslim monarchs in school textbooks. It not only aids in the BJP’s ideology’s dissemination but also in polarization. Dilawar only follows the book in his brand of politics. He is skilled at retaining attention and enhancing his political influence,” one of them said.

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