Hindutva's latest: Taj Mahal vanishes!

Hindutva's latest: Taj Mahal vanishes!
Built as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Taj Mahal is universally acknowledged as one of the world’s seven wonders. Rabindranath Tagore memorably described it as “a teardrop on the cheek of time.” The Unesco recognises it as a world heritage site. The Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 carried a picture of the Taj Mahal so that if the spaceship was discovered by intelligent extraterrestrial beings, they would know that earthlings were capable of building some-thing so beautiful. It appears that the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, where the iconic monument is situated and draws tourists from around the world, couldn’t care less, going by a tourism brochure brought out by it.

The 32-page booklet released by the state government features most of the cultural and heritage sites in the state, including the Gorakhnath temple, of which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the chief priest. But it does not mention the Taj Mahal even once. The omission has left politicians, historians and intellectuals not only in India but the world over bewildered. What is worse, it is not inadvertent, but part of a plan of the RSS-led Hindutva brigade that is setting the agenda for the BJP governments at the Centre and in the states. Immediately after being sworn in, Adityanath had made it clear that only Hindu scriptures Gita and Ramayana reflect Indian culture, not the Taj Mahal.

Indian history has always been problematic for the Hindutva brigade and its aversion to the Taj Mahal underlines how intractable it is. It wants to wipe out or distort the entire medieval period of India’s history. If the Adityanath government in UP does it by omitting the Taj Mahal from its brochure, the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has gone even further against the facts of History in teaching schoolchildren that it was Maharana Pratap, not Mughal Emperor Akbar, who won the battle of Haldighati. That the BJP brand of Hindutva cannot even absorb something as benign as the Taj Mahal into its narrative is a sign of its lack of confidence. The British colonial rulers were careful to preserve the symbols of the Mughal rulers of India before them, and the modern Indian state retains the many institutions of the British Raj. The UP government’s action is of a piece with the Modi government’s obsession with an exclusionary ideology that underpins the recent lynching of members of minority communities and other vulnerable sections. Striking the Taj Mahal off the list of tourist destinations is a vicious, and self-defeating, act. It does not dim the monument’s lustre, but is symbolic of the darkness descending upon India.

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