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22 October, 2017 11:14:21 AM

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The old order changeth . . .

The state government knocked off the iconic Taj Mahal from its recently released booklet on tourism
Kumkum Chadha
The old order changeth . . .

The Taj Mahal controversy simply refuses to die down. If the BJP headed Uttar Pradesh government struck it off its tourism list, one of its legislators called it a blot on Indian culture.

This is how it all began and later panned out. For starters, the state government knocked off the iconic Taj Mahal from its recently released booklet on tourism. It was nothing short of a monumental blunder. The brochure, to mark six months of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh, listed lesser important destinations but omitted the Taj Mahal.  In fact even the comparatively insignificant temple in Gorakhpur where Chief Minister Adityanath is the main priest showed up on the list but the Taj Mahal was missing. Once hell broke loose and the state government was accused of a bias, the damage control began. But the best the government could do was to offer a feeble explanation that people neither found convincing nor true. The booklet, the government said, was designed to list focus areas and new projects of the state government rather than showcase tourism spots. Had it been a one-off, the government may have escaped the flak, but given that it was a repeated offence it was seen as  deliberate. Less than two months ago, the state government did not include the Taj Mahal in its Budget plan either for maintenance or for development of infrastructure. The Mughal era structure being left out was according to many an attempt to make the Budget a pro Hindu one. Two things added to this speculation: one was that the Budget had schemes to develop infrastructure in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura, but none for the Taj; and two state  Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had in the recent past  said that he does not believe that the Taj Mahal “reflected Indian culture”. To drive home this point he had also said that dignitaries visiting India are now gifted epics like the Bhagvad Gita and the Ramayan by Prime Minister Modi, instead of replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets.

Accused of dividing Indian culture into “Hindu and Islamic heritage”, critics lashed out at the BJP for its communal politics. Some others dubbed it as “politics over Taj”.

It did not end here. The latest salvo was fired by BJP legislator Sangeet Singh Som  who called the Taj a “blot” on India’s history. Questioning Taj Mahal’s place in Indian history, Som said that the BJP would erase the stigma of Akbar, Aurangzeb and Babur from history books.

“Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal had been removed from the list of historical places… what history… which history… if these people still find place in history, then it is very unfortunate… I guarantee that history will be changed,” Som said publicly as he chose to question the historical significance of the monument built by a man who targeted Hindus.

The Taj Mahal, as is well known, was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Expectedly, knives were out. But the controversy jumped from Taj Mahal to other monuments too with politicians asking the BJP whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will stop hoisting the tricolor from the Red Fort on Independence Day given that it was built by “traitors”.  One of them went as far as saying that “all signs of slavery” should be wiped out including the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament and Qutub Minar too.

This may be a bit of a stretch but the way things are, the BJP is going all out to establish its Hindu credentials and wants to leave no opportunity to make known to the people of India that the old orderchangeth, as it were. Therefore be it heritage, history, legacy or the people the message that India is fast becoming Hindustan is loud and clear.  Call it politics if you will but the BJP is hell bent on establishing itself as a government that is for the Hindus and of the Hindus.

In keeping with this tone and tenor, among the first decisions the seer turned Chief Minister took  was to ban illegal slaughter houses. There was a method in this madness given that unlicensed meat traders were playing havoc in the state but targeting slaughterhouses within days of his taking over was not something that escaped anyone’s attention. In fact that set the tone of which way the newly elected government was headed. The Taj Mahal controversy has only added fuel to fire.

The latest on the chopper block are Islamic institutions or madrasas.

In a decision taken earlier this week, the state government of Uttar Pradesh decided to cancel the accreditation of those Madrasas who failed to submit their details at the Madrasa web portal.

The portal, made in the month of August, made it mandatory for all madrasas in the state to submit their details within the time span of a month. However, a large number of  Madrasas haven't submitted the details on the portal. The government has now decided to act and get the defaulters by the neck as it were.

With the latest move, one can assume that the State government has no plans of extending the deadline further and the accreditation of all these Madrasas will now be canceled by the UP government.

The Uttar Pradesh government had some two months ago launched a website related to madrasas and orders were issued to upload all relevant information pertaining to the managing committee of the madrasas, teachers, students and other information. The deadline was last month. They were also asked to share maps of classrooms, photographs of the building and teachers banking details.

The move came in the wake up of complaints about irregularities in the madrasas, and it was aimed to bring more transparency in the working of madrasas under the madrasa board but the move is suspect and is seen as one that is targeted at Muslims yet again.

The government cannot be faulted for plugging loopholes and bringing illegally run institutions under the ambit of law. Neither is it any one’s case to let offenders go scot free. But there sure is merit in the assumption that the government’s hands are not clean; nor its intentions above suspicion.

Law evasion is not community specific and any fair government with a sense of justice cannot and should not go for selective persecution or put one community under the scanner while letting the other go scot free.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com) 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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