Admired by tourists around the world for being a monument of love and an epitome of Mughal architecture, Taj Mahal is recently making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Controversies on religious lines have been affecting the reputation of Taj for some time now. Last week, activists of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal’s (RBD) women wing were seen performing aarti and sprinkling Gangajal at Taj Mahal, in protest against Muslims offering namaz at the mosque on its premises. Muslims offer namaz at Taj mosque on Eid, Bakrid and all Fridays, but the recent protest was staged alleging that they offered prayers on another day, which is a violation of the Archeological Survey of India’s (ASI) norms. The protesters declared that “if they can offer namaz, we will do puja”. Right-wing groups have been claiming that Taj Mahal was originally a temple of Shiva, though there is hardly any evidence to prove it.
In response to the incident, Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, president of Taj Mahal Intezamiya Committee, said they won’t be complaining against the women as they don’t want communal riots in the peaceful city of Taj. However, he added that the Muslim community is hurt by the action of the group.
Considering only Muslims are allowed to worship at the Taj mosque, does the action of the right-wing group seem groundless? At a time when religious intolerance is getting peaked, doesn’t the move of the group look like a deliberate one? Will this destroy the peaceful atmosphere of the city and the monument? Taj being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will the dispute of these two groups affect tourism in Agra?
Attack on human rights: Sunita Tiwari Nagpal, theatre director
We have been taught that every religion and festival is for all. No sensible person would visit Taj thinking it belongs to a certain community. People in the authority are setting agendas for the rest of the country to talk about and unfortunately, religion is a soft target. So, what if a community is performing namaz? They are not doing it to show it to anyone. But creating an issue out of it is wrong and it’s not a random thing. I think people should understand the meaning of activism, and this particular act is a crime. This is an attack on human rights.
Ploy to create polarisation: Leo Saldanha, activist
This is expected action from a reactionary right-wing group that is always aching to disrupt peace, create chaos and target Muslims. But it is more than a tad bit tiring to hear this was allowed in Taj Mahal. Obviously, the heavy and complicity’s hand of support of Yogi Adityanath-led administration (if one can ever call it that), can’t be ruled out. This kind of provocative disruption is being caused in the run-up to the elections, a ploy adopted by RSS-BJP in polarising Hindus. The placid and wise response of Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi is to be commended. The choice of women to perform puja at Taj stands out in stark contrast to the mobilisation of women to not enjoy the rights bestowed upon them by the Supreme Court in Sabarimala. It is high time the Allahabad HC took suo moto notice of this colossal failure of the UP government in protecting the site.
Offering prayers doesn’t pollute Taj: Sudha Ramalingam, activist
Communal harmony should be the mantra for all religious groups. Hinduism is plural by nature and tolerant in spirit. Offering prayers does not pollute or corrupt any place. No sanctity is lost by conducting namaz at Taj. For all these decades, it has been done. Taj Mahal is a World Heritage Centre. Let us not make it a place of petty religious squabbles. Good to know that Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi said they won’t be complaining against the protesters. It is the duty of the State government to ensure peace and law and order in the city, and the safety of the monument.
Don’t blow up the incident: Aparna Rayaprol, professor
Religious intolerance is not new in any part of the world, and has been the basis of communal violence and tension. One of the problems is rewriting and interpretation of history without understanding the context. If the Supreme Court has intervened in a Friday prayer issue, there is no need for another religious group to enter the premises. There’s a need to protect Taj Mahal for its historical value and there is no need to bring communal tension into the fray. People should not blow up this incident out of proportion anymore.