Sixteenth-century Mewar ruler Maharana Pratap, not Mughal emperor Akbar, was the one who was “great”, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath said on Thursday. Maharana Pratap won back his forts after “years of battle” and refused to accept Akbar as his king, thus “saving India’s pride and honour in that day and age”, Adityanath said.

“Imagine if Maharana Pratap had accepted Akbar as the king, would we have given him so much respect as a symbol of national pride today?” the chief minister said at an event organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, according to The Indian Express. “The same principle applies in today’s context. We often tamper with society, religion, culture and nation, for our own interests, in a way that can lead to irreparable damage.”

He said it was not important who won or lost in the Battle of Haldighati of 1576. “What is important is that the example that Maharana Pratap set while tackling the biggest empire of that time [the Mughals] is very rare in history. It was not a one-day war, it was fought for years in the Aravallis. By winning back all his forts, Mahrana Pratap proved that he, not Akbar, was great, as he saved India’s pride and honour even in that day and age.”

Adityanath also asked Dalits and tribal people to regard themselves as Maharana Pratap’s descendants as he said they were the ones who made the king great by fighting in his army.