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Love Poem In Marble

Love Poem In Marble

Music unites people. Studies suggest that even animals enjoy musical notes. Nothing is more enchanting than the chirping of birds when they welcome the dawn. All this must have been in the mind of Sangeet Som’s parents when they christened him Sangeet, which means music. Alas, the two-time MLA from Sardhana in Uttar Pradesh is notorious for his actions and statements which cause rift, rather than unity. 

Some people say that Som is just a gasbag and nobody should pay heed to his utterances. The people of Sardhana know that he is a man of action and his rise to fame was because of his alleged involvement in the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 that helped his party sweep the polls in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. So when such a person speaks, it needs to be taken note of.

Som hit the headlines in the media for his statement on Taj Mahal, which was once known as Mumtaz Mahal. He said it was a symbol of slavery, as it was built by the Mughals. He demanded that Babur, Akbar and Aurangazeb were traitors whose names should be removed from history. His ignorance of history was obvious when he said that Shah Jahan who built the Taj had imprisoned his father and “targeted many Hindus in UP and Hindustan”.

First of all, there was no UP at that time. It was a creation of the British who called it the United Province. Shah Jahan did not target Hindus the way Som’s supporters targeted alleged beef eaters like Mohammed Akhlaq who was lynched to death. He did not drive out Hindus like he and his supporters drove out poor Muslims from Muzaffarnagar. Nor did Shah Jahan give jobs to Hindu baiters like Som’s government gave jobs to those accused of killing Akhlaq because he allegedly stored some beef in his fridge.

Poor Akhlaq was not smart enough to claim that it was smashed potato, not meat, that was kept in his fridge. When a BJP leader in Kerala was photographed eating fried beef with his friends at a restaurant in Kerala, he claimed that he was eating fried onion, not beef. He is, perhaps, the only person in Kerala or anywhere in India who orders fried onion as a meal!

It used to be said that paternity was an opinion, while maternity was a fact. This was because, in the olden times, the mother’s word alone determined the paternity of a person. This is no longer the case, as DNA testing can ascertain a person’s paternity, as was proved in the case of former UP Chief Minister ND Tiwari who did not accept his biological son as his own son, despite their striking resemblance. 

It is now compulsory for school authorities to mention the names of both mother and father in the register of students. If Shah Jahan were to be admitted to a school in Agra, his father, Akbar the Great, would have been forced to write in the application the name of Shah Jahan’s mother. She was a Rajput princess from Marwar called Princess Jagat Gosaini. Hers is the same caste to which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath belongs. Shah Jahan never imprisoned his father. In fact, he was imprisoned by his son.

Som did not speak in isolation. The Taj hit the headlines first when a brochure on UP Tourism published by the state government on the occasion of the World Tourism Day omitted the monument from the document. It could not have been just an omission. Imagine mentioning the names of all Union Cabinet ministers without mentioning the name of Narendra Modi who, everybody knows, is the only one who speaks at Cabinet meetings.

Incidentally, one monument that found a prominent place among the 32 mentioned in the brochure was the Goraknath temple at Gorakhpur whose chief priest is Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

I have a friend Babu Panicker who is from Ambalapuzha in Kerala and whose father set up Panicker’s Travels. This year also he received an award from Union Tourism Minister Alphons Kannamthanam. The company makes its money by taking tourists mainly to Agra. Everybody in the tourism industry knows that a majority of the foreign tourists visit Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. For all of them the main attraction is the Taj. 

Every year, upwards of eight million people visit the Taj. It fetches the country directly or indirectly at least two billion rupees. It must also be said that India attracts only a fraction of the tourists China attracts. 

Why does the Great Wall of China attract more tourists than the Taj? It is because the Chinese keep the area neat and clean and provide all comforts, including clean toilets, to the visitors. Step out of the Taj and you will find filth and dirt around at Agra. I can bet that you will not find a public toilet in Agra which is not stinking.

Why was the Great Wall built? It was built by the Chinese to prevent the Mongols from entering their country. Now, it is the greatest attraction for the foreigners. There is nobody like Sangeet Som in China to say that it is a symbol of the Chinese fear of the unknown. 

Som and Company are good demolishers. The whole world saw how specially trained karsevaks from Gorakhpur brought down the Ramjanambhoomi shrine, also called the Babri Masjid, at Ayodhya in 1992 within a few hours. Left to themselves, they would demolish all the symbols of slavery. Unfortunately, the Taj is not the only such symbol. Shah Jahan, who ruled for 30 years, was a great builder. He also built the Red Fort whose ramparts Modi uses to give his Mann Ki Baath on the Independence Day.

Because Som’s knowledge of history is so pathetic, he is not expected to know that after the Mughal rule was ended by the British with the support of a large section of the majority community, the Taj Mahal remained for long in a state of disrepair. At the height of their power, the total population of the British in India never exceeded one lakh. How could they rule India for 200 years? It was possible only because large sections of the majority community sided with them. 

Come to think of it, if every Hindu had taken a stone and thrown it against the British, there would have been no British rule. Goa was the first state to fall to European power. How could a boat-load of Portuguese capture Goa? It was because Goa was ruled by the Muslims and the population of the state was overwhelmingly Hindu. So when the Portuguese came, they were welcomed with both hands. 

There is enough historical evidence to prove that the RSS wanted the British to continue their rule for some more time and that is precisely why it did not take part in the freedom struggle. No RSS lathi ever fell on a British man. While hundreds of freedom fighters died in the cellular jails of Andaman, the man who conceptualized Hindutva, “Veer” Savarkar, sought clemency in writing from the British. It is a different matter that his portrait today hangs in Parliament!

Som should know that if Governor-General William Bentinck had his way, he would have demolished the Taj marble by marble and exported it to Britain. In fact, he sent a consignment of marble pieces from the Taj to London but it did not fetch the price that he expected. The low price disheartened him so much that he abandoned the very  idea of exporting the Taj.

It is a different matter that it was another British ruler by the name Lord Curzon who saved the monument. He was a man with several missions on hand. However, it was the Taj Mahal that had his unqualified attention. 

In the previous two centuries, the Taj Mahal had seen much destruction, looted by different marauding groups as the Mughal Empire lay dying. It had also suffered damage during the 1857 revolt when British Army personnel stayed there. The marble walls were inlaid with gems which were all pilfered.

Previous conservation initiatives had focused on the mausoleum but Curzon’s plans included the restoration of its gardens and the reconstruction of its outer courts. No doubt, he was a corrupt man and he is  today remembered mostly for the famine that occurred during his rule and the division of Bengal. Small wonder that his tenure is called  Curzonshahi, akin to Nadirshahi.

Nonetheless, Curzon did many good things, including the enactment of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1904. He is believed to have said, “The sacredness of India haunts me like a passion”. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Taj today is as much a creation of Shah Jahan as it is that of Lord Curzon. 

KK Mohammed who served as the officer in charge of the Archaeological sites at Agra and whose autobiography  Njanenna Bharatiyan (Me an Indian) is a great work has mentioned in a recent interview that all the doors in the Taj were erected by the British ruler.

Mohammed, who knows the history of the Nath sect to which Yogi Adityanath belongs, says that the Naths did not consider themselves Hindus or Muslims, as they were above such divisions. It is a different matter that the Yogi’s predecessor had allegedly given a call for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi three days before his assassination and he was imprisoned for several months.

Those who speak against the Taj do not speak aimlessly as they have a clear agenda. There was one PN Oak who wrote a book based on concocted facts that the Taj Mahal was a temple converted into a mausoleum. He was such a character that he claimed that every monument related to the Mughals or the Muslims, be it the Red Fort or the Jama Masjid in Delhi or the Charminar in Hyderabad were all Hindu temples converted into Muslim monuments. He had his own theory about the Qutab Minar!

If one were to believe Oak, the Moghuls did nothing but ate, drank and made merry. Whenever they had some spare time, they converted Hindu temples and monuments into Islamic architectural wonders that have stood the test of time. He had his own theory about the construction of the Vatican. 

Oak approached the Supreme Court to get a verdict that the Taj belonged to the Hindus and they should be allowed to worship there. When he failed, he approached the Allahabad High Court with another appeal, the purpose of which was to claim that it was a Hindu monument.

Oak even set up a History Rewriting Institute. Though he is no more, his work has been taken over by the Sangh Parivar which is busy rewriting history. When APJ Abdul Kalam died, they immediately got the Aurangazeb Road renamed after the former President. In fact, they were waiting for an opportunity to do so. 

The Sangh Parivar’s agenda is very clear. It wants to prove that all the knowledge in the world is contained in the Vedas and Indian sages knew everything from astronomy to astrology to aeronautics to plastic surgery to atom bombs and Hydrogen bombs when the Europeans and Americans ate   fish and meat and drank water to survive.

All names which are Islamic like Moghulsarai in UP are being changed. In the Sangh Parivar publications Ahmedabad has a different name obliterating Ahmed which stood for the Prophet Mohammed. The Parivar historians have been working overtime to prove that the Hindus, like the Dravidians and the tribals, were native people and they did not come from anywhere. That is why they do not like to call the tribals Adivasis. Their preferred name for the tribals is Vanvasis, i.e., those who live in the forests like the monkeys.

All said and done, rewriting of history is not that easy. For quite some time, they have been teaching their brand of history in their schools and other educational institutions. Once, on a visit to Pakistan, a journalist there asked me some questions about Indian history. 

I could make out that the questioner thought Gandhi and Nehru cheated the Muslims and that is why they had to ask for the creation of Pakistan. He also seemed to believe that MA Jinnah was a greater politician than Gandhi. A few years later, LK Advani argued that Jinnah was a great secular leader.

It is because of the rewritten history that Sangeet Som said that Shah Jahan imprisoned his father. Had he learnt proper history he would have learnt what Rabindranath Tagore had said about the Taj, a love poem in marble: “A teardrop on the cheek of time”. In all this, a good thing has happened though it is to save his face. Yogi Adityanath has decided to visit Taj Mahal. Let him know why people consider it one of the seven wonders of the world!

The writer, a senior journalist, can be reached at  ajphilip@gmail.com

(Published on 23rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 43)