The use of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s lokamudra or royal seal on the newly unveiled Indian Navy ensign has been welcomed by the academic and the naval fraternity. But it has also raised some questions.
Some experts have questioned the political messaging conveyed through the use of the royal seal. “If the use of the royal seal is being done to portray Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as the father of the Indian Navy, then it is a bit problematic,” a maritime expert, who did not wish to be named, told CNN-News18.
He said that the Maratha contribution to India’s naval past could not be undermined. Their fight with the colonial forces and the focus on maritime strength was phenomenal; it contributed immensely to Swarajya, he said.
“But India has a huge maritime tradition dating back to the Cholas, to the Pallavas, and even back to the Harappan civilisation. Our maritime tradition is at least five thousand years old. Shivaji Maharaj was no doubt the final military leader in recent times who thought of maritime prowess, a king who thought of maritime awareness, and who fought colonialism. But by showcasing that, are we placing our maritime history in a time span which is three to four centuries old?” he asked, saying that he will be guarded in supporting the move.
Political experts say this move is politically significant to show not just regional pride but also nationalism. “Regional identity and regional pride are politically prominent themes. The use of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s iconography is clearly a huge message. Anyway, the military had a Maratha infantry and a Mahar regiment. But we have seen that the BJP has used icons politically. Vallabhbhai Patel or Savarkar or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj – the names that were muted by the Congress in the name of secularism have been taken up by the BJP,” said political commentator Abhay Deshpande.
He said that the BJP had started using this iconography in Maharashtra since the year 2014 itself. “So, in the 2014 elections, the BJP had come up with the campaign tagline – ‘Chhatrapatincha ashirvaad, Modinchi saath’. It has also given importance to the descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While it has built inroads in rural Maharashtra, it has now started making conscious efforts to include the majority community and the dominant castes. When it comes to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, his name goes beyond castes. So it can be seen as a part of BJP’s efforts at all levels, especially with a focus on national pride and regional identity,” he said.