WRITTEN BY CH. FAISAL MEHMOOD
It is so sad that an attempt is being made to close down for the tourists and the visitors the ultimate testament of love, the Taj Mahal. As the news came from India that the BJP government of Uttar Pradesh, where the celebrated UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site is located, has removed it from the official list of tourist destinations in the state. A booklet released to mark six months of the BJP`s coming to power in India`s most populous state includes no mention of the Taj Mahal, one of the most famous & iconic monuments in the world, considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture, The Muslim Mughals.
In June, this year the hard-line UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said that the 17th century white marble mausoleum in Agra does not represent Indian Ethos. Official foreign visitors to the state are now presented with copies of the Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata instead of Taj Mahal replicas, as was the custom before.
It is obvious that a state blinded by ancient hatreds and seeking to foist its narrow worldview on the people. The UP government`s attempt to rewrite history in saffron colours and unravel India`s multi-hued heritage may be a endless task, but it is one that will fray inter-communal bonds even further as well as exact a heavy toll on the country`s international image. For the Taj Mahal belongs not only to India: as being the UNESCO`s World heritage site, it belongs to all of humanity much as did the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, Pyramids in Egypt and Palmyra in Syria. The UP government`s action is of a piece with the BJP central government`s obsession with religious and cultural purity, an exclusionary ideology that underpins the recent lynchings of individuals belonging to minority communities and the Scheduled Castes. However, striking the Taj Mahal off the list of tourist destinations is a self-defeating, if vicious, act. It will not dim the monument`s lustre; on the contrary, it will yet again highlight the darkness descending upon India, the World’s largest secular democracy.