The coronavirus had hardly disappeared in our country when it was struck by another deadly virus – the communal virus. The coronavirus has affected the human body; the community virus has affected the body politic. The entire society, including the various governments at the center and in the states, has fought with determination against the coronavirus, but the community virus is actually promoted and spread by the BJP, its cohorts and the governments it leads at the center and in various states.
The Prime Minister, who is so vocal on all issues, regularly shares his ‘Mann ki Baat’ with the people and likes to address the nation at eight o’clock in the evening, is completely silent on this issue. What else can explain the fact that he did not condemn the violence or call on the people to keep the peace? Clearly, the Prime Minister and his party are accomplices, willing promoters of the chaos we are witnessing today.
The target of this new atmosphere of hatred is the Muslim community, the history of Muslim rulers, Muslim names of towns, villages, roads and mohallas, Muslim monuments, especially their places of worship, many of which are linked to part important in our history. . Their request is that these names be changed (and they are changed whenever possible); that all their places of worship built after the destruction of Hindu temples be replaced by temples as in Ayodhya; that other monuments where there is a trace of a Hindu connection, real or imagined, should be converted into Hindu monuments (the Taj Mahal should be declared to be a Hindu structure and named Tajo Mahal after a queen or a imaginary Hindu deity); and indeed, all traces of Muslim rule in India should be erased from our history books.
It is in this context that a public interest litigation plea was filed seeking to open the closed doors of the Taj Mahal; this was done at Allahabad High Court (which fortunately has not yet been named Prayagraj High Court) by an enterprising UP BJP official to enable him to use these locked rooms at research purposes. He thought the locked rooms would reveal the Hindu connection of this monument, although the Archaeological Survey of India has repeatedly stated that the rooms were locked by them and there were no statues of gods and goddesses Hindus. The intention of the petitioner was therefore far from honest; the court saw clearly and dismissed his request with a resounding rebuke.
We are grateful to the court for this order and hope it will have a moderating effect on other adventurers. But not all courts in the country are so bold or fair. See what is happening in Varanasi with the Gyanvapi Mosque? There is no doubt that this mosque was built after the destruction of a Hindu temple. The destruction was not complete and parts of the temple are still visible inside and outside the mosque.
A court in Varanasi ordered a videography of the location. To determine what? In fact, the Gyanvapi Mosque represents the history of India in a way perhaps few ancient structures do, and brings out clearly what the rulers did in the past, especially with the places of worship of the other community. . It should be preserved as such to demonstrate what we have been through at some point in our history, and why such examples should not be repeated in a modern liberal society.
But Muslims alone are not guilty of this crime. Hindus did it on a massive scale with Buddhist places of worship after banishing a major religion like Buddhism from India. These examples are scattered all over the country. Buddha statues were draped in a sari, his face painted to resemble that of a woman, and he and his followers are worshiped as Hindu goddesses. Should Buddhists start reclaiming their places of worship converted into Hindu temples? And where will it all end?
The Taj Mahal is not even a place of worship. It is a monument built by a Muslim ruler desperately in love with his wife. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. All Indian governments have encouraged visiting dignitaries to visit the Taj Mahal and have their photograph taken in front of it. Change its name to Tajo Mahal and you would have destroyed not only the Taj Mahal but also the composite culture of India.
Many years ago I was invited by some people in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh to give a public lecture. It is a small town about 200 kilometers from Indore but like many other towns in Madhya Pradesh it had a tradition of public lectures where people would gather in the open air to listen to the speaker. During my visit to the city, my hosts took me to see some ancient monuments, of which Burhanpur is full.
One of the places I visited was the Jama Masjid built in 1589. I was surprised to notice the Sanskrit inscription on the entrance door of the mosque written in Devnagri script. It provides astronomical position, date and year of construction according to Hindu samvat. Who taught the virtues of community harmony or secularism to the Muslim ruler who built this mosque and authorized an inscription in Sanskrit? India’s history, even during the era of Muslim rulers, was not at all one-sided. There were shining examples of community tolerance and harmony. The British destroyed it by pitting one community against another in order to divide and rule. We still carry this baggage and it is weighed down today by the fanatics of both communities.
India will not prosper on the basis of communal division, on the basis of the hatred and violence it will engender. A great and prosperous India can only be built on the basis of communal harmony, secularism and inclusiveness. Let the Taj Mahal be. Let it shine in the moonlight like the Taj Mahal built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife.
(Yashwant Sinha, a former BJP leader, served as finance minister (1998-2002) and external affairs minister (2002-2004). He is currently deputy chairman of Trinamool Congress.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.