Source: Deccan Chronicle
BY IRFAN HUSAIN
Karachi: When Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to celebrate six months of the BJP government, what did he decide to do? According to a news report, he dropped the Taj Mahal from Uttar Pradesh’s list of tourist attractions. This is akin to Paris deleting the Eiffel Tower from its tourist brochures, or New York downplaying the Empire State Building. So why downgrade the importance of this sublime expression of love built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal? Because it “does not represent Indian ethos”, according to the Yogi. Excuse me? I thought India was a syncretic place where different cultures, faiths and people were absorbed to produce a rich and vibrant civilisation. I might have been right once, but not in Narendra Modi’s India where the notion of a monolithic Hindu nationalism has taken root. Now, foreign NGOs, Pakistani theatre groups and iconic artists like the late M.F. Hussain have no place in this vast country of over a billion people. Yogi Adityanath has decided to give visiting dignitaries gifts of copies of the Gita and the Ramayana instead of the traditional miniature replicas of the Taj. No offence, but speaking for myself, I would prefer the Taj replica.
The Yogi was the chief priest of the main Hindu temple at Gorakhpur, so one would expect his worldview to be a bit limited. And to be fair, he’s not the first official to downplay the Muslim contribution to Indian culture. I was in Mumbai around 12 years ago, and visited the old Prince of Wales museum, or, as it is now called, the Chhatraparti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Inside, I found a vast display of historical objects, but oddly, no sign of any Mughal artefact. Indeed, somebody unfamiliar with the history of the subcontinent could be excused for thinking that there never had been a Muslim presence of any kind in India. Authoritarian states can erase or rewrite inconvenient chapters of their history. Thus, after Leon Trotsky had been exiled and made a non-person, all photos of the revolutionary communist leadership were issued without his image. A similar fate awaited Mao’s comrades who had fallen out of favour.