By- Shamsul Islam
One of the Greatest Wonders of the World, the only one being in India, Taj Mahal becomes the newest target of the Hindutva killer/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 8th century Hindu king Anangpal Singh Tomar at Sisauli village near Meerut (October 16, 2017) was once again on in top gear while denigrating Muslims and Islam. However, it was not from his earlier repository of hate like cow, love jihad, gharwapsi etc. etc. On this occasion he chose a new theme. It was Taj Mahal being denigrated as part of Hindutva polarizing agenda.
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.”
Som continuing his sermon said “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 Rao, 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.”i
This sermon on history was hilarious so far as facts were concerned. One could see the clear imprint of RSS ‘boudhik’ (intellectual) 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 former’s death. But so far as aim of communal polarization was concerned there was no confusion and mistake.
Som a beloved of 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 elections he was also charged with instigating communal hatred after his supporters screened a documentary that allegedly polarized voters. This RSS/BJP leader was also accused of stoking communal tensions in Dadri’s Bisada village after the 2015 mob lynching of Mohammed Ikhlaq.
For his such prominent services to the cause of Hindutva politics he was felicitated with awards like Hindu Hriday Samrat and Mahathakur Sangharsh Veer by ‘Hindu’ organizations. 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.ii
Som in his speech was condemning those historians and activists who had criticized absence of iconic Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site from the list of historical monuments in the UP Government 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 Rs 75 crores in three years of which only Rs 11 crores 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 expressed 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 make 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 emphasize 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 polarizing agenda can be known by the statement of a seasoned RSS/BJP leader, Vinay Katiyar, BJP Rajya Sabha MP which he made 2 days after Som’s venom spitting against Taj Mahal. According to him Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan after demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva called Tejomahal.iii
It was no different with the BJP national spokesperson and a senior RSS cadre, G V L Rao who though expressed difference with Som but treating Taj Mahal as a heritage of the killer and barbaric Islamic rule as Som had done, had no hesitation in declaring that “As a party, we do not have a view on any individual monuments. 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”.iv
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, specially in Gujarat. The RSS/BJP feel that Hindus of Gujarat 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 organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji”.v
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 Ram-zade (children of Ram). The hatred campaign against Muslims/Islam was carried on for almost 2 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 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 pauperized 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 Hindutva bandwagon specially RSS cheated and renegaded on the Babri mosque. There can be 3 kinds of immediate dangers to Taj Mahal.
1. Mobs are allowed to damage/destroy Taj Mahal for being a symbol of Islamic repressive rule as was done on December 6, 1992 or in 2006-7 in Kandhmal against Churches and seminaries of ‘anti-national’ Christians. It may be noted that many ‘Hindu’ historians/intellectuals have been claiming that Taj Mahal was a temple.
2. Taj Mahal is damaged/destroyed by forming a fake Islamist group or conspiring with some Islam-o-fascist group claiming that mausoleum like Taj Mahal is not allowed in Islam. It may be noted here that RSS relies on conspiracies for achieving its objects. Dr. Rajendra Prasad who rose to be the first President of the Indian Republic warned even first home minister of India, Sardar Patel on this. In a letter to Sardar Patel (March 14, 1948) he wrote: “I am told that RSS people have a plan of creating trouble. They have got a number of men dressed
v Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, pp.26-28.
as Muslims and looking like Muslims who are to create trouble with the Hindus by attacking them and thus inciting the Hindus. Similarly there will be some Hindus among them who will attack Muslims and thus incite Muslims. The result of this kind of trouble amongst the Hindus and Muslims will be to create a conflagration.”vi
3. Even if Taj Mahal is not demolished its beauty and gorgeousness for which the Taj Mahal is known can be damaged permanently by the conspiratorial use of sub-standard and harmful chemicals for cleaning. This can be done through experts/consultants committed to cleansing of India of ‘Islamic’ heritage.
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 creatures like Som, GL Rao and Vinay Katiya have been propagating. The UNO, specially UNESCO must monitor the situation to save Taj Mahal.
vi Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Sardar Patel (March 14, 1948) cited in Neerja Singh (ed.), Nehru-Patel: Agreement Within Difference—Select Documents & Correspondences 1933-1950, NBT, Delhi, p. 43.