One of the ‘Greatest Wonders of the World’, the only one in India, Taj Mahal has become the latest target of the Hindutva demolition squad.
It was ordered to be built by Mughal king Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram known as Shahjahan (1592-1666) in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is interesting to note that it was named as Taj Mahal (Crown of the Palace) despite being a mausoleum which took 20 years to be built.
A Hindutva icon from western UP, Sangeet Som, after inaugurating a statue of the 8th century Hindu king, Anangpal Singh Tomar at Sisauli village near Meerut (October 16, 2017) was once again vocal in denigrating Muslims and Islam. However, it was not from his earlier repository of hate like cow, love jihad, ghar wapsi etc. On this occasion he chose a new theme, the Taj Mahal.
According to a leading English daily in this speech Som told the gathering: “Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal had been removed from the list of historical places, what history, history of which place, which history ? The person who made Taj Mahal [Shahjahan] imprisoned his father, he targeted the Hindus of Uttar Pradesh and India. If these people still find place in history, then it is very unfortunate, and I guarantee that history will be changed.”
Continuing his harangue, he added, “In the past few years, there have been attempts to distort history in India and Uttar Pradesh. Today, the Governments of India and UP are working to bring that history on the correct path, from the history of Ram to Krishna, Maharana Pratap to Shivaji , they are trying to incorporate them in the books. And the blots which are in our books, be it of Akbar, Aurangzeb, Babur, the government is working to remove them from history.”
This sermon on history was hilarious so far as facts were concerned. One could see the clear imprint of RSS ‘boudhik’ training which produces such intellectuals. Shahjahan becomes Aurangzeb! Shah Jahan, who got Taj Mahal built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was told to be the one who jailed his father. On the contrary it was Shahjahan who was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb till the former's death.
Som, dear to the RSS, is a seasoned religious bigot. He was implicated for his provocative statements in the Muzaffanagar riots of 2013 that claimed at least 60 lives and displaced 50,000 people. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission report on Muzaffanagar riots named him among the people responsible for inciting the riots. In the last UP assembly election, he was also charged with instigating communal hatred after his supporters screened a documentary that allegedly polarised voters. This RSS/BJP leader was also accused of stoking communal tension in Dadri’s Bisada village after the 2015 mob lynching of Mohammed Ikhlaq. For such services to the cause of Hindutva, he was felicitated with awards like Hindu Hriday Samrat and Mahathakur Sangharsh Veer by 'Hindu' organisations.
His prominence in the Hindutva hierarchy can be gauged by the fact that instead of being behind bars he has been provided Z-category security by the RSS/BJP government. Som in his speech was condemning those historians and activists who had criticised absence of the iconic Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the list of historical monuments in the UP Government’s Tourism booklet released a month ago.
Taj Mahal was dropped from the list despite the fact that as per a reply of the then Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma in the Lok Sabha (July 19, 2016), it had earned a revenue of ₹75 crores in three years of which only ₹11 crore had been spent on its maintenance and other important environmental development of the Taj Mahal during the same period.
It is true that a section of the BJP leaders did half-heartedly express their difference with Som's opinion, taking care of the fact that their response did not hurt the perpetrator of hate. The UP Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi made it clear that the Taj was part of our heritage. But when asked directly about Som's denigration, instead of condemning the hate campaign against the Taj Mahal she simply said, “Well, every individual is free to have an opinion but as far as the government is concerned Taj is very much on our priority list.”
There is no doubt that Som's diatribe was neither an exception nor an aberration. He was religiously expressing the RSS/BJP point of view on the monument. Last June chief minister Yogi Adityanath had no hesitation in declaring that. He said that "the Ramayana and the Gita represent Indian culture and not the Taj Mahal." He went on to emphasise that the ivory white marble mausoleum didn’t represent “Indian culture”.
How the RSS/BJP intends to use the issue of Taj Mahal for its polarising agenda can be known by the statement of a seasoned RSS/BJP leader, Vinay Katiyar, BJP Rajya Sabha MP which he made two days after Som's venomous speech against Taj Mahal. According to him Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan after demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva called Tejo Mahalaya.
It was no different with the BJP national spokesperson and a senior RSS cadre, G V Narasimha Rao who despite voicing expressed difference with Som, had no hesitation in declaring “as a party, we do not have a view on any individual monument. But, broadly speaking, the period of Islamic rule — around 800 years — was a period of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith. If anyone tries to gloss over these facts, it will be actually distorting history. It is well documented by historians of world stature that Muslim invasion and its rule represented the most oppressive and regressive world over”.
Some of the political commentators are of the view that the issue of Taj Mahal's 'barbaric Islamic' heritage is being hyped keeping in view the coming assembly elections, especially in Gujarat. The RSS/BJP feel that as Hindus of Gujarat are not solidly backing it there, this issue will help in consolidating Hindu vote-bank there. It may be partly true but the danger of Hindutva mischief with Taj Mahal cannot be underestimated.
We should not forget that that before the murder of Father of the Nation, Gandhiji (January 30, 1948), a strident campaign of hatred was launched against him by the Hindutva gang. This hate propaganda resulted in his assassination was underscored by none other than Sardar Patel led home ministry which went on to record that "It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji".
It was no different when Babri mosque's demolition was planned and executed during 1990-92. It is well-documented how all Muslims became haram-zade or Babar kee Aulad (children of Babar) posing serious danger to the Ram-zade (children of Ram). The hatred campaign against Muslims/Islam was carried on for almost two years and became the most pervasive sentiment among Hindus with a trail of bloodbath of Muslims in different parts of the country. Riding on it the Hindutva juggernaut led by RSS was able to demolish the Ayodhya mosque on December 6, 1992, despite commitment to the Parliament, PM and Supreme Court that mosque would not be harmed.
The RSS demolition squad must tell us that why despite "the period of Islamic rule — around 800 years — was a period of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith", the population of Muslims never exceeded 25% of the population and Hindu population never decreased below 75%.
Savarkar says that after Humayun no Mughal king of India was from a Muslim mother. '800 years of Muslim rule' kept Muslims pauperised whereas wealth, properties remained with the Hindus. Was it due to the fact that high Caste elite of Hindus joined hands with these 'Muslim' rulers? There could be no other reason for continuation of this insane barbaric, extreme exploitation and unprecedented intolerance Islamic rule for 800 years.
There is real danger to the safety and existence of Taj Mahal. The rulers having allegiance to RSS cannot be trusted despite all kinds of assurances. India has not forgotten how their Hindutva bandwagon specially RSS cheated and reneged on the Babri mosque.
There can be three kinds of immediate dangers to Taj Mahal.
In order to check and counter any such attempt, the highest court of justice in India, the Supreme Court, must take immediate charge of the World Heritage site as Governments both at the Central level as well as UP level are committed to what people like Som, GLN Rao and Vinay Katiya have been propagating. The UNO, specially UNESCO must monitor the situation to save Taj Mahal.
(The author is a former Professor of Political Science in Delhi University)