Home Global Village Yogi Adityanath responds as war of words over Taj Mahal escalates

Yogi Adityanath responds as war of words over Taj Mahal escalates

Yogi Adityanath
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A day after one of his party’s legislators said the Taj Mahal doesn’t represent Indian culture, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath waded into the controversy today, saying that the Mughal monument is decidedly Indian.

“It does not matter who built it (Taj Mahal) and for what reason; it was built by blood and sweat of Indian laborers,” said Adityanath, in what could be seen as a reprimand of UP BJP legislator Sangeet Som.

Read more: Taj Mahal: No longer part of Indian history?

On Monday, Som initiated an uproar when he termed the Mughal emperors as “traitors” and then targeted the Taj Mahal. Commenting on the removal of the Taj Mahal from a State list of Uttar Pradesh’s historical sites, the BJP MLA retorted that the building and the Muslim rulers who had built it should not be considered a part of Indian heritage. Another Samajwadi Party lawmaker Azam Khan said today, “Why only Taj Mahal, Parliament, and Rashtrapati Bhavan are also symbols of slavery and should be demolished.”

The iconic building is the ivory-white marble mausoleum of the Queen Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan which attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. Described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”, it is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history.  

He further said that he would “change that history” which cast the Moghuls and by extension other Muslim dynasties as an integral part of Indian heritage.The remarks created a backlash from political and social quarters. The AIMIM’s firebrand Asaduddin Owaisi responded by saying “Traitors also built the Red Fort, will Modi stop hoisting Tiranga (tricolor) (from there)”?

The Taj Mahal, listed as one of the UN seven wonders of the Modern world and a prime Indian tourist destination, was not mentioned in an Uttar Pradesh government booklet to promote tourist spots. The iconic building is the ivory-white marble mausoleum of the Queen Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan which attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. Described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”, it is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history.

Read more: Hindu nationalists claim that the Taj Mahal was originally a ‘temple’!

Sangeet Som the man who gave the controversial remarks is not free of controversy himself. The BJP legislator was charged with inciting communal violence that left over 60 dead in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. Sangeet is termed a firebrand hardliner whose popularity hinges on hate speech directed towards Indian minorities especially Muslims.

The attacks on the Taj Mahal signify a concentrated effort by some section of the Hindutva groups to obliterate the Muslim part of India.

The Indian State of Uttar Pradesh has become a hotbed of Hindutva fundamentalists since the rise of Yogi Adatyanand, another Hindutva fundamentalist to power. The Hindutva ideology revolves around the premise that the Indian Subcontinent was a Hindu utopia which was invaded by “foreign faiths” such as Islam. According to Hindutva ideologues, all the famous monuments built by Muslim rulers have been built atop Hindu temples or structures as a sort of victory testimonials. Therefore, these structures are a blot on Indian culture and should be removed.

Read more: The lie we tell ourselves to justify British rule

The same logic is applied to historical mosques throughout India with the most famous example being the Babri Masjid whose destruction by Hindutva militants sparked riots across the country. The attacks on the Taj Mahal signify a concentrated effort by some section of the Hindutva groups to obliterate the Muslim part of India.

In the end, it can be concluded that while Mosques were once in the target sights of Hindutva extremists now it seems that Hindutva has set its sights to destroy any sign of Indian Muslim history.

Hindutva thrives on its own version of history which paints the Muslim rule of India as a “Reign of barbarians” and Muslim rulers painted as Tyrants out to exterminate the local Hindus. This is evident by the recent “Saffronization of history” by the Rajasthan government who has decided to inculcate a “Hindu” version of history to young students.

Read more: Why is BJP storing weapons in Southern India?

In the end, it can be concluded that while Mosques were once in the target sights of Hindutva extremists now it seems that Hindutva has set its sights to destroy any sign of Indian Muslim history.