Sign Of The Times

taj mahal

By Humra Quraishi

I’m certain that the long dead Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his begum, Mumtaz Mahal, would be tossing and turning in their graves, wondering what madness has overtaken the plains of North India, where they had once -upon -a –time ruled. Nah, no ordinary rule, as their hukumat left not just strong imprints of Mughal architecture, arts, crafts and cuisine but also that monumental wonder called the Taj Mahal, which till date draws thousands of tourists from around the world, filling the State exchequer with crores.

Today, though the State is gobbling those crores yet its political rulers stand questioning the Taj Mahal and its very builder, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan – the man and his emotions behind erecting this wonder in memory of his spouse, Mumtaz Mahal.

In fact, months before Yogi Adityanath was appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh he tried his level best to grab headlines by throwing up rather provocative queries to the very historical base to the Taj Mahal. In heated television discussions one did hear him raise biased and uncalled for comments to the Taj Mahal. Writ large it was that Yogi’s historical knowledge was dismal yet he was trying to whip up a controversy of sorts along the typical communal strain.

And with that in the background, it has come as no shocker to hear communally charged characters from his political party raise queries and questions to the basis of this historical wonder. Going by the very timing of this uncalled for attack on the Taj, it seems an extremely well – planned move to distract attention of the hapless masses from the failures of the government. After all, hundreds of children have died, rather are dying, in the government hospitals of Uttar Pradesh. Conditions in the hospitals are so pathetic that they are getting nicknamed ‘butcherkhanas’! True, Yogi Government has forced shut the slaughter of animals but he hasn’t been successful in curbing the unofficial killings taking place right inside the hospital-wards. Mind you, those left alive are witnessing the death of institutions taking place. Even the world famous Benaras Hindu University stands intruded into by the political mafia of the day. When the State setup ‘Anti-Romeo squads’ failed to nab any of the molesters from the very campus of the BHU, one can well imagine what must be taking place off – campus! In fact, fear of the goon brigades and also of the political senas is writ large to such an extent that even the who’s who avoids stepping out after sunset. Forget about encounters with the so called Romeos; encounters with cops are what they dread. After all, in the six months of the Yogi sarkar UP police have conducted 420 encounters with alleged ‘criminals’ – killing 15. No details splashed of those who have been killed by the State and for what crimes!

With layers of illusions thrown around ((illusionary development if nothing else!), communally charged characters are busy throwing around concocted versions of history. If the sarkar of the day had doubts about the historical backgrounders to the Taj Mahal they could have invited historians of the caliber of Professor Irfan Habib and sought his views. But ‘why’ or ‘how’ could they do so, when their agenda seems to distract us from the present mess.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, hearing the likes of Sangeet Som and Vinay Katiyar giving us historical gyaan! Do they even know the history of Uttar Pradesh; a Pradesh they are hell bent on destroying- if not through rioting or by destroying structures than by dragging along bogus divisive tactics.

Till date Taj Mahal stands tall as a symbol of love and emotions. I do hope it doesn’t get dented by fanatics hovering around, who have already managed to tear apart the fabric of togetherness between communities that this land was once known for.

The next time one hears the communal brigades cry hoarse that Shah Jahan had limbs chopped off of the artisans after they’d erected the Taj Mahal or that he had built it on a temple site, its absolutely essential to usher in vital and authentic historical inputs. In fact, just last week I heard Professor Irfan Habib comment that because Shah Jahan was building the Taj in the memory of his wife, he made sure he purchased that particular stretch of land along the banks of the Yamuna river, on which he would build his monument of love. No, there was no question of Shah Jahan grabbing land or demolishing any religious place of worship. In fact, this historian had also focused on the fact that Shah Jahan’s mother was a Hindu and he had always been in close contact with his mother’s entire clan and respected their religious practices.

And as I got talking to several Agra residents, it was heartening to hear them veto the communal mutterings of the likes of Soms and Katiyars, ‘Sheer nonsense! New theories are nothing but out to destroy us. After all, our Agra is world famous because of the Taj Mahal. This Taj is ours … we are known for our Taj Mahal. It stands strong as a monument of love …such love is not to be seen in today’s murky times where all we get to see are killings and the dying! Even the local public has become aware of the political dirt around and keeps away from the goons who are hired to spread out nothing but nonsense!’

Hopefully this monument of love remains intact, undented and untouched. And is not converted into a gau-shalaya by the political mafia holding sway in these dark times.