By Amulya Ganguli
It will be unwise to dismiss BJP M.P VinayKatiyar’s warning about converting the Taj Mahal to “our temple”, the Tejo mandir, as the hate rant of a well-known rabble-rouser.
It has to be acknowledged that the Sangh parivar generally gives advance notice of its game plans. For instance, the first indication that it was targeting the Babri masjid was given by the VHP in 1985 when it spoke of how Babur had a mosque built by demolishing a temple marking Lord Ram’s birthplace to humiliate the Hindus.
Four years later, the BJP took up the issue – and the rest is history. It has to be remembered that the VHP’s reference to a demolished temple was made a year after the BJP suffered its worst ever electoral debacle when it won only two Lok Sabha seats.
Evidently as a result of this huge setback in 1984, the saffron brotherhood had started hunting for an issue which could revive its fortunes and what issue could be more emotive than one about a Hindu deity and the depredations of alien invaders who were followers of another religion ?
Just as the Muslim League chose the slogan, “Islam khatre mein hain” (Islam is in danger) as its battle cry after the party’s setbacks in the 1937 elections showed that there was no way to defeat the Congress other than by whipping up communal sentiments, the BJP, too, decided to play the religious/communal card to come back into political reckoning.
Considering that unlike in the late 1980s, the BJP is on a strong wicket now, what is the need for the party and the parivar to opt for a destructive path aimed at the world’s most famous monument?
However, the targeting of the “blot” on Indian culture, to quote BJP MLA Sangeet Som’s description of the mausoleum, is a part of the Hindutva brigade’s longstanding project of erasing the country’s Islamic past which can be seen in the rewriting of history by saffron apparatchiki from the time when Murli Manohar Joshi was the human resource development minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s cabinet.
In a way, this penchant for revisionism is no different from the eagerness of the Islamic zealots to wipe out the unIslamic past of their countries as could be seen from the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Similarities of this nature tend to link the fundamentalist groups of all religions.
It is worth recalling that the Taj has aroused the wrath of the saffronites for quite some time. V.S. Naipaul, who applauded the demolition of the Babri masjid, found the Taj to be “so wasteful, so decadent and in the end so cruel that I found it painful to be there for very long”.
Before Naipaul, there was P.N. Oak, a pioneer in the matter of rewriting history in line with the parivar’s beliefs, who was the first to claim that the tomb of Mumtaz and Shahjehan was a Shiva temple – Tejo Mahalaya – just as the Vatican was a “vatika” or a garden in Vedic times and that the Kaaba in Mecca and Westminster Abbey were also once Hindu temples. He also saw a link between Christianity and “Krishna-niti” or the way of Krishna and thought that Abraham was a variation of Brahma.
To most people, such assertions are a joke. But the parivar does not see it in the same light and its followers may well be willing to act on their beliefs. Before the Babri masjid demolition, too, it was thought that an ancient monument would not be attacked. Such an outrage had never occurred in modern times except in Nazi Germany where Jewish synagogues were burnt.
After the dastardly deed was done, some of the BJP leaders were unsure of what the public reaction would be even as the rank and file celebrated and only Vajpayee was said to have offered to resign. But now they have no qualms about the destruction.
Although the BJP had assured the judiciary and the National Integration Council that the masjid would be protected, the party, which was in power in U.P. at the time, not only failed to save the mosque – an “ocular provocation”, as L.K. Advani called it – but its leaders – Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others – looked on either helplessly or gleefully as the saffron storm-troopers brought down the “disputed structure”, to use another of the parivar’s terms for the mosque.
After the demolition, the BJP lost the 1993 assembly elections in U.P., it has since returned to power in the state either in alliance with the BSP or on its own, as at present. The party cannot be said, therefore, to have had to pay a political price for its act of violence. It is possible that the BJP may not have to do so if – God forbid ! – The Taj is attacked.
The reason is that the party and the parivar have succeeded in the last four years in creating a poisonous atmosphere of anti-Muslim feelings as can be seen in the malicious rants of the saffron trolls. So even as anodyne tweets are put out by the BJP leaders, crackers will be burst outside the party offices and sweets distributed if the Taj is brought down. (IPA Service)