Taj Mahal controversy

Sangeet Som’s fallacy makes Red Fort, Lutyens’ Delhi foreign to Indian culture

Bikram Vohra (First Post)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi says we cannot move ahead without our heritage. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath says the Taj Mahal was built by Indian sweat and blood and toil.

These are scarcely vigorous defences for the silly controversy.BJP MLA Sangeet Som said the Taj Mahal was a 'blot on Indian culture'. GettyImages

BJP MLA Sangeet Som said the Taj Mahal was a ‘blot on Indian culture’. GettyImages

Why cannot these powerful individuals not be so guarded and careful? Why not just come out and say, oh stop it, cut the nonsense and go back to work particularly to people like Sangeet Som who stoked this controversy.

If you go by current Indian political standards the US will have to send back the Statue of Liberty to the French because it was a gift and it is not American culture, is it? By that very token the 3,020 cherry trees that the Japanese sent to Washington DC in 1912 as a gesture of friendship and now form the botanical icon for the capital should be taken back …after all the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour.

The Brits should give to the Yanks the statue of George Washington at Trafalgar and the Russians should give back the Sword of Stalingrad to commemorate the battle of the same name. The Americans should return to China the two Pandas and their progeny that Nixon was gifted and the desk in Donald Trump’s Oval Office, sent by Queen Victoria after it was salvaged from the HMS Resolute should be carted back and the President left literally standing.

Why should any nation be reminded of conquests and colonialism and dynasties and empire, what fun there is in the denial of history?

Now that we are going for the Taj Mahal and after 70 years getting beyond the point of utter stupidity, we should truly go all the way. Let’s have a clean-up day and destroy every British edifice from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (erstwhile Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai to the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata to the Gateway of India (built to welcome George V) and India Gate (war memorial to 82,000 sepoys who were killed in WWI fighting for the English so they could extend their command over India). So much to do, all those beautiful churches like St James’ and St Paul’s and St Thomas’ because they are not Indian culture. There goes Lutyens, in a trembling little heap of dust. Ironical that this is where the politicians reside in homes built by the British. Twenty minutes drive away is the Qutub, down it comes. We should also completely eradicate Goa, Daman, Diu, and Pondicherry because they speak Portuguese and French there and that is not our culture either.

And since our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru certified our freedom from the ramparts of the Red Fort this being the citadel for the Mughal Empire for 200 years, we have to see our Independence as a false start like that famous Usain Bolt race at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu and we must call the British back to take us over and start the Quit India movement all over again. What a hassle and that’s also par for the course for Modi whose supporters want the Taj to go but are okay with poncing about the Red Fort for every major event. Son et lumiere switch off, will you?

Okay, enough with the sarcasm, you get the drift. To a more serious aspect. We will always have takers for religious fervour and that is the last refuge for those people who have nothing else to offer and their promises have broken into shards of glass. It is the great deflector and it works. For a while.

That the Taj needs to be defended after being India’s global icon is obscene in itself. It is a man-made marvel and testament in its time to human ingenuity. India has fought to ensure its entry into the wonders of the world. It rose above the religious or even the symbol of great love and entered the realm of magnificent architecture joining that exclusive club: the pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum in Rome, the hanging gardens of Babylon.

Me, I cannot understand this preoccupation with nothingness. The Taj is ours. Excluding it from a book on Uttar Pradesh tourism can be a foolish oversight. But if the banner is picked up and turned into a clarion call and its dismissal or noninclusion seen as a test of nationalism and patriotic loyalty then you and I are no better than those Taliban destroying the Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

Today monuments, tomorrow books.

If Taj Mahal is built by traitors, so is Red Fort, politician tells Modi

Dawn, Pakistan

NEW DELHI: In a stinging response to recent remarks questioning the Taj Mahal’s place in history by India’s ruling party legislator, a leading politician on Monday asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi would stop hosting foreign dignitaries at the state capital’s iconic Hyderabad House, because that, too, was built by “traitors”.

Earlier, the rightwing Hindu government in Uttar Pradesh removed the Taj Mahal from its official list of tourist destinations for which the state is famous, according to a Times of India report.

The move followed comments from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who said the 17th century marvel in Agra did not represent Indian ethos and was built by “traitors”.

Responding to the controversial remarks, Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi, tweeted: “Traitors also built Red Fort will Modi stop hoisting Tiranga? Can Modi and Yogi tell domestic and foreign tourist not to visit Taj Mahal?”

The All India Majlis-i-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief, in a series of tweets, also said that the Hyderabad House in Delhi — the state capital’s venue for hosting foreign dignitaries — was built by a “traitor”. “Even Hyderabad House in Delhi was built by traitor will Modi stop hosting Foreign Dignitaries?” he asked on Twitter.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leader’s remarks about the Taj being a “blot on Indian culture” have sparked shock and rage online.

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