‘Senior’ legislature belonging to the BJP, Sangeet Som not only stirred a controversy, but also a hornet’s nest recently when he qualified the Taj Mahal, one of the ‘seven wonders of the modern world’ ‘a blot on Indian culture’, and ‘a monument built by traitors’.
Now, who is a traitor? The dictionary tells us a traitor is a person who betrays his country by committing treason’. So then, what is treason? The dictionary gives three meanings for ‘treason’; it could be a crime that undermines the offender’s government, or, it could be disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior, or further still, an act of deliberate betrayal. The Taj Mahal, a mausoleum situated in Agra in Uttar Pradesh, beside the river Yamuna was commissioned by the Mughal emperor ShahJahan in 1632 to house the tomb of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. Regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 for being ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’. The Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian, and never a traitor by any stretch of imagination, described the Taj as ‘the teardrop on the cheek of time’, referring to the somber intention and circumstances for which the masterpiece was constructed.
So, the Taj Mahal was built by ShahJahan, a mughal emperor. Mughals belong to the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Mughals who invaded and ruled India were mostly ethnic Turks, and never ‘Indians’ to begin with, and therefore does not qualify for ‘traitors’, as do Indians who persist in sullying the Indian nationhood, and very identity through subversion by indulging in activities like pulling up people eating beef, and physically hurting people involved in cattle trade, and forcing people rise up to the national anthem and the national flag, wherever they are sung or unfurled respectively, and blow up Indian economy to smithereens through destructive steps like putting in place(1) demonetization, which added to death and poverty of numerous Indians, including farmers, and(2) GST, which has placed the grind of daily living of common Indians away from their reach by causing significant and gargantuan hike in prices of essential commodities. ShahJahan, an invader, who never was an Indian therefore, is never a traitor. He simply cannot qualify as one. Nor did he commit ‘treason’. He never did, like the forces which commit the aforesaid crimes, to showcase India of the 21st century in extremely poor light before more sensible and responsible nations. What ‘treason’, then is this Som talking about? If, through some mechanism, ShahJahan is somehow conferred the title of a ‘traitor’, the Prime Minister will have no business to address the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. This is because the Fort was also built by the ‘traitor’ ShahJahan in 1639 as the palace of his fortified capital, Shahjanahabad. If the Prime Minister persists in doing so, he too will be tagged as ‘traitor’ by the likes of Som, who continued with his diatribes ‘what history are we talking about? The man who built Taj Mahal imprisoned his father. He wanted to massacre Hindus. If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history. I guarantee you’, he ranted
He had for company other more vociferous and poisonous traitors like Vinay Katiyar, the BJP ‘leader’ and member of Parliament through Rajya Sabha, who went further to add oil to fire by claiming that a Shiva temple called Tejo Mahal once existed at the spot where now stands the Taj. And that the temple was demolished by the Mughals to build the mausoleum. As if Lord Shiva bothered! One wonders if the Lord really needs temples built by mere humans as notorious as Som and Katiyar, for His sojourn, when He has the entire Kilash to himself!
The venomous Katiyar was one of the spear heads of the Ram Janam Bhoomi movement, which ultimately brought down the Babri Mazjid on December 6 1992, bringing down with it India’s pride and reputation as a truly pluralistic and secular nation. This shameful blot on Indian history qualify as one of the biggest examples of treason in post-independence India, built on the sweat, blood and ideals of a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who the modern India has chosen to relegate to the trash can! That such a person as Katiyar, an arsonist (read traitor) is a free man today to continue with his disruptive agenda and habit is food for much thought. When he ought to be behind bars, in the least, he is now a legislator in Parliament, involved in ‘governance’. Some irony that!
What does this unsavory and unnecessary controversy created out of nowhere probably to garner votes for the BJP-led NDA in the general elections coming up in 2019 represent?
- It represents immaturity of modern India as a democracy and more importantly, trepidancy of India as a nation. Probably it is this lack of confidence in herself, and in her current governing apparatus, that India now turns back at the Taj and its history in extremely fearful agitation.
- It represents modern India’s glaring fear and nervousness with numerous minority communities existing within it, especially the Muslims, who are integral part and her history. The controversy surrounding the Taj exposes BJP’s blatant ‘Islamophobia’! There are other numerous structures that were constructed in India by her invaders. Possibly, the Englishmen had eructed more structures of national identity and individuality than the Mughals, like the Rashratapathy Bhawan and the Parliament, and in fact the entire Lutyens’ Delhi, all of which were designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens . Construction of these too would have necessitated pulling down places of worship of Hindus. If indeed that was necessary, the zealots of BJP wouldn’t have bothered, as those involved in their construction were the British and not Muslims, the anathema by default to the BJP. Or, would they chose to call Christians ‘traitors’, now that the British have left Indian shores?
- It also represents the BJP’s strange ‘allergy’ for history. Why does the past haunt them? Why this futile exercise to alter and do way with history? That exercise will only be in vain, as history is etched in time, and to every nation’s identity. History will persist until and into eternity, like it or not! The Taj is the identity, and has become part of Indian history and culture. It is the identification mark with which the rest of the world identifies India, like the Golden temple is to Punjab, and the gateway of India and the Taj Hotel is to Mumbai, and St. Francis Church and the Jewish Synagogue is to Cochin, and the St. Thomas Church at Malayatoor and the Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, and the Juma Mazjid at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram are to Kerala. That is exactly why the Taj attracts a large number of tourists every year. According to UNESCO, more than 2 million visited the Taj in 2001, which frog leaped to 7-8 million in 2014. If Indian history doesn’t seem appetizing to the BJP and the rightwing forces, it certainly does to the rest of the more sensible world. That is probably why yogi Adithyanath, the firebrand Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and a BJP stooge, in whose state the Taj is situated raking in precious mullah through tourism decided to take a sensible stand much incongruous to that of his party. The Chief Minister, deciding to be sensible this time maintained that ‘it does not matter who built the Taj and for what reason; it was built by the blood and sweat of Indian laborers’. For once, the yogi talked sense. The Devil must be given His due nevertheless! He continued ‘it is my government’s priority to provide facilities and safety to tourists’. To him, ShahJahan ceased to be a traitor as valuable money earned through tourism was at stake!
- It also represent’s paucity of belief and faith in the innate strength of, and ingrained in Hinduism, the votaries of which the BJP-led rightwing forces claim to be. Hinduism, of all faiths, does not need structures which allegedly were dismantled to make way for others to fall back on for its unique strength and all encompassing glory. The deities worshiped by the Hindus wouldn’t care less. To them, what is a temple? They do not need structures built by human to reside in. What they need are hearts of men bereft of malice, violence and naked hatred for fellow human beings to reside in, as do deities of everyother faith. The fear and nervousness of the likes of Som and Katiyar at a mere mausoleum in which is interned the mortal remains of a Mughal queen is therefore difficult to discern simply because Hinduism is much more than buildings, including the Taj Mahal!
- It also represents lack of control Prime Minister Modi commands over runaway elements and bigmouths within his party like Som and katiyar, who are hell-bent in bringing to naught the mandate with which the Modi-led BJP government assumed power in Delhi, which has come to stay as one of the biggest disappointments of post-independence India, sick and tired of Congress misrule, best known for corruption, nepotism, sycophancy and coterie politics, and it’s long years of the vote-garnering policy of ‘pseudo-secularism’. The Prime Minister’s great ideals with which he assumed power remain just grandiose dreams and promises that are yet to be honored. Fanatical elements within his party and organizations like the RSS, who are but traitors, going by the definition, are sure to squander away a golden opportunity for rightwing forces led by the BJP to steer India to a better tomorrow and todays to be looked forward to, irrespective of history and the past. It the BJP falters at this crucial opportunity, the Taj would easily become a mausoleum for India as a rather silly nation lost to irrelevance. In such an eventuality,
- India would become a laughing stock among more mature nations on the highway to development in the real sense of the term, not scared of history, but are willing to accommodate and accept history as their identity
- India would become one of the most insecure countries for tourists to visit. What attracts tourists to a locale is its history. Who will trust a nation which is not trusted by her citizens or the government, a nation plain scared of her history?
- India would confirm her increasing disrepute where its minorities coexist with the majority in insecurity, fear, disrespect and are constantly being considered askance as enemies, and ‘traitors’, and a blot to her great culture.