Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Conversions, the Taj Mahal and "Secularism" in India

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

India is back doing what it does best. Cry Havoc and let slip the dogs of secularism if I am paraphrase the words of the great Bard of Avon. In Agra, the city famed for the Taj Mahal a group of 57 families decided to leave their Islamic faith and embrace a syndicated version of the Hindu faith. There is no ban in the political statement called the Constitution on religious conversion and so the contrived outrage against the "reconversion" to a syndicated edition of Hinduism ought not to engage anyone's mind. However, things are not so simple here in India. Busybodies get on the scene and the climate gets charged with all kinds of real and imagined assaults on "secularism". Religion according to the Indian political document that these busybodies like to quote is only a matter of personal choice and so it cannot concern anyone.

A huge amount of misinformation has been put out by  those professing to stand up for "secularism". The BPL cards cannot have been given as an inducement for conversion because the state government is in the hands of the Samajwadi Party which is politically opposed to the  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Holding the Central Government responsible for the incident in Agra is disingenuous because the Ration Cards and BPL cards can only be given by the State Government. The 57 families abandoned Islam because they found their livelihood effected by the sort of high voltage campaign that is being carried out by the likes of Azam Khan and his ilk. The Government of India under Narendar Modi has economic development of India and the infusion of technology as its main raison d'etre. It is certainly not interested in identity issues. The defeated political entities like the Janata Dal (U), the Congress party and the Samajwadi party have all based their politics on religious and caste identities and therefore are at the  present noise on the issue of these 57 families choosing a faith of their own conviction. Economic inducement was neither give nor taken. So there is no illegality here.

Azam Khan a "minister" in the Samajwadi Government at Lucknow issued a statement recently in which he demanded the takeover of the Taj Mahal by the Waqf Board of which he is the Chairman. What he does not stat is that Waqf property to the tune of several thousand crores has already been swindled and this Khan shows no interest in reclaiming that. A national monument under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India is now being targeted. Further, the Queen for whom the Taj was built was  Shia and the Mughals themselves were probably secret adherents of the Shia faith. This is important because the Safavids rulers who helped Humayun reconquer the territories of Baber from the Afghans would have provided military and material support only after ensuring that the Mughals are on their side in the geo political situation as the Persia was sandwiched between the Ottomans and the Mughals. By deliberately insinuating the discredited theories of P N Oak the so called secularists are only providing cover to the like of Azam Khan.

The reconversion movement in Agra must be seen in the context of the communal politics injected into the region by Azam Khan and his tribe.

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