WASHINGTON: The Editorial Board of the leading American newspaper the New York Times said on Sunday that anti-Muslim rhetoric and unprovoked attacks on Muslims have risen alarmingly under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In an editorial titled “Hate Smears India’s Symbol of Love, the Taj Mahal”, the NYT Editorial Board said the Hindu extremists have become a driving force in India who are so obsessed with demonizing Muslims that they are even discrediting the Taj Mahal, built by a Muslim Mughal Emperor.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as tomb to show his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal and is considered as one of the wonders of the world and is a magnificent symbol of enduring love. According to the board, Taj Mahal is perhaps India’s greatest cultural treasure and pre-eminent tourist attraction.
It attracts millions of tourists to this marvel which is carved with marble inscribed with verses from the Holy Quran.
The Board said that it is this inscription of verses of the Holy Quran which is “exactly what the Hindu right finds so galling”.
In October, it was noticed that the Taj Mahal was omitted from the tourism brochure of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the monument is located in the city of Agra. The UP is headed by the firebrand Hindu cleric Yogi Adityanath.
“Sangeet Som, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, railed that the Taj Mahal was “a blot on Indian culture” built by “traitors.” And Mr. Som’s party colleague Vinay Katiyar blustered, completely unglued from historical fact, that the Taj Mahal was actually “Tejo Mahal, Lord Shiva’s temple,” referring to the Hindu god.”
Taj Mahal was restored on the brochure, following a visit of Mr. Adityanath to the site after he sensed that it would destroy the state’s tourism revenue. Although, he resolved the problem and restored the Taj Mahal on the brochure, he grudgingly stated that the tomb was important because it “was built by the blood and sweat of Indian laborers”.
“Anti-Muslim rhetoric and unprovoked physical attacks on Muslims have risen alarmingly under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Hindu hard-liners speak more and more boldly of an India where Muslim citizens are, if not hated enemies, mere guests who live at the sufferance of Hindus,” the NYT Editorial Board wrote in the editorial.
The editorial said that the past Wednesday was the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu fanatics who claimed that it was built on the site of a Hindu temple.
“Subsequent rioting between Hindus and Muslims, which killed more than 2,000 people by some estimates, is a reminder of what Hindu zealotry can wreak,” the editorial said. India’s Supreme Court last week began hearing on the fate of the site where Hindu hardliners vow they will rebuild a Hindu temple on the site of the ruined mosque.
“In this disturbing context, preserving the Taj Mahal is important, not only as a testament to the glories of India’s syncretic past, but also as a pledge to an inclusive future,” the editorial concluded. —APP