Taj Mahal
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According to Indian media, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh (UP) has removed the Taj Mahal from its official list of tourist destinations for which the state is famous.

In June this year, Yogi Adityanath said that Taj Mahal built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan does not reflect Indian culture. He claimed this is why foreign VIPs are gifted copies of the Gita and the Ramayana now by government officials instead of replicas of the Taj.

Any effort to use religious beliefs for political purposes will push India into a quagmire of religious and ethnic hatred which is not beneficial for itself and its neighbors

This move has been criticized by Indian opposition leaders who stated that UP government discriminates against Muslims and attempts to blank out any part of India’s cultural heritage that is not Hindu.

Taj Mahal is included in the list of seven wonders of the world and is a prime destination for tourists from around the world.

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Politics and Taj Mahal

‘Laxmikant Bajpai’ a former leader of the BJP once claimed that the Tomb was, in fact, a temple sold by Hindu king Jai Singh to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He also claimed that there were indeed documents proving his claims.

The Indian court officially rejected claims that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple while hearing an appeal to let Hindus pray in the historic monument’s premises. It further concluded that only Muslims were allowed to pray in the “Tomb” that Shah Jahan built for one of his wives as a final resting place. Dr. Mahesh Sharma, India’s Culture Minister, said that “the government has not found any evidence which can suggest that Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple of Shiva”.

The heavy-handed response of Indian security forces on peaceful protests in Kashmir which erupted after the assassination of Burhan Wani in 2016 led to the deaths of hundreds while thousands more were injured

A collection of tourist bodies warned: “The Taj Mahal is a major tourist attraction and a symbol of national pride not only for Agra but also for the entire country… Making the Taj Mahal controversial would affect not only the source of attraction for the world but also tourism in the country.”

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Tourist Attraction vs. Extremist Hindus

According to pundits, Taj Mahal is a symbol of Muslim heritage in India. The extremist Hindus cannot digest this fact and are bent upon labeling it a Hindu heritage. The petition by few BJP supporters which was struck down by courts and now this move of striking it off from heritage list is an indication of increasing saffronization of India.

Since the victory of BJP in 2014 elections, India has witnessed a steady rise of Hindu extremism in a country which is secular by the constitution and is considered one of the largest democracies in the world. However, things are now changing quickly. Violence against minorities, especially Muslims has increased considerably in past few years.

The petition by few BJP supporters which was struck down by courts and now this move of striking it off from heritage list is an indication of increasing saffronization of India

Lynching, mob violence, attacks on journalists and elements within Indian media and academia with secular ideals are increasingly common now. Congress, the largest opposition party in India has held PM Modi responsible for the sudden rise of extremism in the country.

The stance of Modi’s Government

The extremist trends are visible in the way India government operates. The heavy-handed response of Indian security forces on peaceful protests in Kashmir which erupted after the assassination of Burhan Wani in 2016 led to the deaths of hundreds while thousands more were injured. Most heinous was the use of pellet guns which blinded thousands. While the world was shocked by these atrocities, the BJP vote bulge was quite satisfied with the tactics of the government in Kashmir.

Read more: A tale of terror: BJP worker fakes bombing of own home

Modi government’s war-weary attitude towards Pakistan and China, its clandestine efforts to destabilize Pakistan and its aggression on LOC and the working boundary is an Indian effort to divert attention away from rising extremism inside India.

Modi government must take measures to counter this menace of religious Hindu extremism in India. Any effort to use religious beliefs for political purposes will push India into a quagmire of religious and ethnic hatred which is not beneficial for itself and its neighbors.

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