By Vipin Pubby
From time to time someone or the other leader of BJP stokes up issues which are actually non issues. Invariably these relate to Hindutva and are targeted against Mughal heritage or the Muslim community. TV channels debate such topics for hours together while newspapers waste reams of newsprint. People wonder if these are the most important issues of the day while they face poverty and unemployment.. Yet such controversies leave a bad taste in the mouth and there is always a danger of the impact of such controversies on the gullible.
The latest to raise a storm is a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, Sangeet Som, who does not have an enviable track record. His statement that the Taj Mahal was a ‘blot’ in India’s history was triggered by reports that the Uttar Pradesh government’s tourism brochures had omitted reference of Taj Mahal as one of the historical sites in the state. Som questioned the ‘history’ of Taj Mahal and claimed that the “person who made the Taj Mahal imprisoned his father …..targeted all the Hindus of Uttar Pradesh and India” and went on to claim that the government was working to remove such ‘blots’ from history.
Besides being factually incorrect when he said that the builder of Taj Mahal had imprisoned his father, the BJP MLA’s attempt to rewrite history is not just ridiculous but a dangerous thought as well. While those who are literate can distinguish what’s right and wrong, such statements can have serious impact on the thought process of less educated and those brain washed by the likes of Som Pal and his ilk. Even more unfortunately, BJP spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao appeared to add fuel to fire by describing Mughal rule as ‘barbaric’ and a period of “incomparable intolerance”. Apart from the fact that the reference to ‘intolerance’ is ironic, the party leaders single out Mughals even while the track record of the British and others wasn’t impeccable either.
This is not the first time that some of those associated with the BJP have sought to rewrite history and history books. Its government in Haryana, led by Manohar Lal Khattar, has set up a committee to rewrite history books. In Rajasthan its Education Minister Vasudev Devnani has announced that students would be taught that Rana Partap, and not the Moguls, won the Battle of Haldighati. The Maharashtra government plans to downplay Moghul history and focus on Maratha glory.
In the national capital, the name of Aurangzeb Road was changed to APJ Abdul Kalam Road and the government is looking at changing names of some other roads and buildings. All this is ridiculous. Also there appears to be a pattern and definitely there is method in madness.
All those focusing on attempts to rewrite history and trying to look at it through their own prism are doing a great disservice to the nation. It is okay if there are factual inaccuracies which may have been incorporated by the British, and that need to be corrected. But these corrections need to on the basis of foolproof evidence. However nothing but ridicule can be earned by twisting history for ideological imperatives.
Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is not dependent on UP Tourism literature to attract tourists. It is one of the most sought after places of tourist attraction and few foreign visitors fail to include it in their itinerary. The absence of reference to it in tourism brochure or the statements such as those made by Som can only attract ridicule.
It is heartening that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has sought to limit the damage caused by Som’s remark and has said that the Taj Mahal was built “by the blood and sweat of India’s sons and labourers. He has also announced a Rs 370 crore development package for Agra which it desperately needed. While his stand and statements are welcome and are a tight slap on the face of Som, he and leaders like him should not be allowed to get away with attempts to create a rift in the society. The party’s failure to take action against him would invariably lead to the conclusion that he had the nod of the party leadership. A party that wants to talk about ‘vikasvad’ or development, can’t afford to let people like Som hijack its agenda.