India’s Muslim heritage under threat as Hindu zealots eye Taj Mahal’s claim after Babri mosque

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Pursuing the agenda of Babri mosque’s demolition 30 years ago, the Hindu zealots continue to make false claims about the historic sites, most recently the magnificent Taj Mahal, for its alleged origins to an early Hindu rule.

A recent writ petition filed by a leader of Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought a fact-finding committee to “study the real history” of the Taj Mahal with an aim to declare the UNESCO heritage site Taj Mahal as originally a Hindu temple.

Rajneesh Singh, head of the BJP’s media relations in Ayodhya, north India, in his petition, said there was no “scientific evidence” to prove that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal.

Though the attempt was foiled by the Indian court, the BJP leaders over the years have been repeating and amplifying unhistorical claims that the Taj is in fact a Hindu temple, which was built much before the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The Hindutva driven RSS is peddling the narrative all across India against historical monuments built by Muslim rulers.

Under the BJP rule, the right-wing Hindus of RSS is pursuing a campaign that involves changing the names of cities and claiming over 36,000 mosques across India through claims that they were built over a temple. The list of cities includes Aligarh, Deoband, Farrukhabad, Badaun, Sultanpur, Ferozabad and Shahjahanpur. The UP government has already changed the name of Faizabad to Ayodhya and Allahabad to Prayagraj.

Yogi Adityanath, a close aid of Modi and the Chief Minister of UP is leading the effort to eradicate Muslim identity by renaming the names of districts and localities with Muslim background.

In 2017, Vinay Katiyar, who was then a BJP Rajya Sabha member, claimed that the monument was in fact a Shiva temple named ‘Tejo Mahalaya’, which was “originally” built by a Hindu ruler.

The recent Taj Mahal episode has refreshed the sad demolition of Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 as a black chapter in the annals of history.

The demolition led by L.K Advani, President Ram Janambhumi Movement, was part of an effort to revive BJP and RSS who claimed that it was built on the exact spot in Ayodhya where Hindu god, Lord Ram, was born.

Shriraj Nair national spokesperson for the Hindu nationalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad (sub group of RSS) said that, “”I felt very proud when the mosque was demolished. From that time onward, the word ‘Hindutva’ — or the feeling of being Hindu — came into everybody’s mind. It was a big success”.

During the second term of Modi, all accused for the Babri Masjid demolition were acquitted by a special CBI court. Despite the fact that demolition was recorded in newspapers and on video, the court said evidence was not acceptable.

However, the Babri mosque is not the only one taken over under the Hindutva ideology. About the 17th century Gyanvapi Mosque built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in Vanarsi, the right wing Hindus claim that it was built over Vishweshwar temple.

Tensions sparked in 2021 when five women filed a petition and demanded access to pray inside the mosque. The single petition has now grown to 15 separate petitions, with many calling for the mosque to be torn down and a temple built in its place.

Keeping the precedence set in Babri Masjid in mind, it is highly likely that the courts under the Modi led government will give verdict in favor of the Hindus.

The Shahi Eidgah Masjid built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669 at Mathura, is also being claimed to have been built on Keshav Dev temple that was destroyed by the ruler during the Jat rebellion.

Right-wing Hindu groups have created a controversy over Jamia Masjid Shamsi by claiming that it was built by demolishing the temple of Neel Kanth Mahadeva.

Unfortunately, the global community has turned a blind eye towards the blatant human rights violations committed by Hindutva driven BJP government towards Muslims and other minorities in India, thus requiring a strong introspection at national and international levels.—APP