The needless controversy featuring the heritage monument Taj Mahal, generated by ill-informed bigots belonging to the Sangh Parivar has adversely affected India’s international image. It has dented the belief that the country was a melting pot, where communities, regardless of caste and creed, respected the rich culture assimilated and absorbed over centuries.

It, indeed, is a shame that none of the top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have found it fit to curb this growing intolerance, which is blatantly aimed at further polarising our society to enable the saffron brigade to wrest political advantage on the eve of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections. The BJP can surely win these polls without unleashing venomous misinformation, given that it was occupying the pole position in national politics, and thereby, has little need to take the assistance of communal crutches.

The Taj Mahal, undoubtedly is, one of the greatest attractions for tourists from the world over, and thus, any attempt to diminish its importance needs to be, in the strongest possible words, deplored. Yes, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, who had virtually fanned the tirade by initially making callous observations and subsequently excluding the monument from the list of the state’s tourist sites, did on Thursday attempt to make amends by urging his supporters not to raise questions regarding who built the Taj or what went into its construction. His actions failed to rein in die-hard BJP grassroots workers who take immense pride in displaying their lack of knowledge on vital issues, particularly historic facts.

The problem with the foot-soldiers of the Hindutva outfit is that they tend to mix mythology with history—when both are important—but not the same. Their distorted perception of history, propelled by religious myths, thus bereft of facts, bears testimony to their intellectual bankruptcy. They fail to understand that the consequence of their irresponsible utterances can create disharmony that would negatively impact the unity and integrity of this great and ancient nation.

Throughout the world there are discrepancies in history, but they can be corrected only through disclosures of concrete facts and not by mere imagined beliefs. There is no historic evidence to suggest that there was a Shiva temple at the site where the Taj was built. Presuming, however, there was one, how does it alter its present existence? The Mughals, kings or rulers, of the past and present, have the proclivity of changing the symbols of power. 

In the United States, there is always a huge cross or a church in the middle of the reservations built for the Native Americans, who were displaced after being conquered by the Europeans, who made America their home. The cross was an emblem of authority, and the crest denoted a change of regime. It served as a reminder to those who had been vanquished, that from then onwards their beliefs, religious or otherwise, were subservient to the victors.  

It is well known, that in democracies, change of the government leads to knocking down the key images and symbols of the previous regime. It is no co-incidence that the present BJP leadership has been targeting the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, so as to establish its supremacy. Even during the Congress period, Indira Gandhi adopted her own quintessential style of politics and brand of ideology, which was in sharp contrast to that of her father.

In recent times, Sonia Gandhi did not adhere to what was practised by her late husband Rajiv Gandhi and created her own narrative. The Narendra Modi government has no resemblance whatsoever with the earlier BJP-led NDA dispensation of Atal Behari Vajpayee. All of the above are well-documented facts. In the civil service as well, most bureaucrats reel off fudged figures after holding office for only one year so as to highlight the imaginary or notional improvement they have initiated in their ministry or the institution they head.

The Taj has been under fire in the past, but not for the reasons it is now being vocally vandalised. The late Sahir Ludhianvi, arguably the country’s most renowned Urdu poet, had from a Leftist and progressive perspective mocked the majestic structure. In a poem addressed to his beloved he emphasised on the limitations of the common people who did not have the power and pelf of the mighty emperor to create something similar to the Taj. “Ik Shanshah ne Daulat ka Sahara Lekar, Hum Gharibon ki Mohabbat ka Udaya hai Mazaq. Mere Mehboob kahin aur mila kar mujhse (An emperor because of the treasure of his wealth has wrought a harsh joke on lovers who are commoners. Therefore, my beloved, meet me elsewhere).”

Similarly, Aldous Huxley said of the Taj, “I, perceive, that the marble covers a multitude of sins.” However, like Sahir, the description was abstract, and not concrete, just like some of the present day self-styled custodians of Hindu culture are trying to portray the matter. So far as the state government goes, it should focus on areas of governance and development rather than primarily promoting rituals and obscurantist thoughts and theories. Adityanath owes it to the people who have elected his party, and thus needs to erase the erroneous impression that he was merely a “part-time Chief Minister”. Between us.

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