Editor's note: This copy was originally published on 3 October after the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh left the Taj Mahal out of its tourism department booklet. It is being republished in light of BJP MLA Sangeet Som declaring the Taj Mahal a "blot on India culture" and built by "traitors".
The Taj Mahal has become to the Hindutva brigade what the Bamiyan Buddhas were to the Taliban and Palmyra was to the Islamic State. In the dark recesses of their minds, this architectural marvel has come to represent many things — imagined grievances, bigotry, and inferiority masquerading as the desire to claim cultural superiority. If all this wasn't toxic enough, their targetting of the Taj is also a classical symptom of the powerless rage that forces its perpetrators to vent their anger on lifeless objects, secure in the belief that monuments can't hit back.
The Yogi Adityanath government's recent decision to leave the Taj out of its tourism department booklet is yet another reminder of the deep-seated anxiety of this brigade. The Taj is among the seven wonders of the world. It is a prominent UNESCO heritage site. For decades, people from across the world have made arduous journeys for a glimpse of the Taj. Almost a fourth of visitors to India travel to Agra to see the Taj. In many parts of the world, no montage of India's cultural and architectural beauty is complete without the Taj being its centrepiece. For years, it has been the biggest revenue-spinner for Indian tourism. And yet, the Adityanath government doesn't want to include it in its tourism booklet. There couldn't have been a more nauseating example of the beast of bigotry eating its own tail.
The Yogi government's decision to ignore the Taj in promotional literature isn't the first sign of its monumental discomfort. A few days ago, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had argued that the Taj doesn't represent Indian culture — a flawed argument to the core. All across the world the Taj is seen as a symbol of love. Only Adityanath can explain why he doesn't want India to be identified with a symbol of love. Perhaps, for the bigots, hatred is the defining emotion and, if it wants to sell it as a symbol of India, the BJP doesn't need to look farther beyond Ayodhya and the structure its kar sevaks destroyed.
A few months later, the Yogi government left it out of the budget allocated for preserving the state's cultural heritage. It found no mention in the special section 'Hamari Sanskratik Virasat' incorporated in the 2017-18 budget, getting sidelined for purported Hindu monuments and tourism circuits.
Obviously, the venom against the Taj in the government's mind, body and soul runs deep and thick.
This is, of course, a pervert, myopic way of looking at history. Discriminating against people on the basis of caste, creed and religion is gross injustice, a manifestation of psychological malaise. But, carving up monuments on the basis of religion is plain hilarious, a sad joke on what goes on inside minds consumed by hatred, inferiority, revenge lust and bigotry.
There is also an element of hypocrisy to this 'everything Mughal is an anathema' argument of the bigots. While they call for the defacement of the Taj and other Mughal-era monuments, speeches made from the Red Fort — another legacy of the Mughals — trigger nationalistic glee and a lot of chest-thumping.
Frankly, if the Hindutva brigade hates the Mughal era monuments so much, why can't it drum up support for a surgical strike on them, give a call to its kar sevaks to do to the Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid and Fatehpur Sikri what it did to the Babri Masjid years ago? If you have the mind of the Taliban, why not summon the courage to put it in action and do a Bamiyan?
The BJP's discomfort with Indian history is well-known. It is one of the perils of learning it in a shakha or, as is the fashion these days, through tutorials mass forwarded on Whatsapp. When you do that, the only thing you are capable of is looking at everything through the coloured glasses of religion. When that happens, the burning desire is not for understanding, learning and taking pride, but for erasing it and ensuring eternal sunshine of the bigoted mind.
Unfortunately, the Adityanath government's latest directive would achieve nothing except exposing its own biases. The Taj does not require any introduction to the world. It, unlike the Gorakhnath Mutt, does not require a hardsell from the government. For years it has drawn people who believe in love to India and to Agra.
Those who think India's syncretic culture is synonymous with love will continue to visit the Taj. Haters can check out the Uttar Pradesh government's new booklet for various options.
Updated Date: Oct 16, 2017 14:57 PM