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ASI bars visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb in Aurangabad after MNS’ vandalism threats

The tomb of Aurangzeb in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. File

The tomb of Aurangzeb in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

After threats by the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena [MNS] to destroy Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) on May 19 shut the tomb for the next five days to visitors even as the Aurangabad police increased security around the structure.

The move comes after MNS spokesperson Gajanan Kale had earlier in a tweet questioned the “need for the existence of the tomb in Khuldabad in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Maharashtra,” calling for it to be destroyed.

In a video post, Mr. Kale, who is the MNS’s Navi Mumbai city president, had taken aim at the Uddhav Thackeray-led tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ government (of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress) while stating that late Sena founder Bal Thackeray himself had questioned the need for the structure’s existence.

“On December 18, 2000, the respected Bal Thackeray, in an interview given to the [Sena’s mouthpiece] Saamana, had said that Aurangzeb’s tomb in Sambhajinagar [as Aurangabad is called by the Sena and the MNS] ought to be destroyed and never rebuilt. Will this Thackeray government at least listen to Bal Thackeray?”Gajanan KaleMaharashtra Navnirman Sena spokesperson

“On December 18, 2000, the respected Bal Thackeray, in an interview given to the [Sena’s mouthpiece] Saamana, had said that Aurangzeb’s tomb in Sambhajinagar [as Aurangabad is called by the Sena and the MNS] ought to be destroyed and never rebuilt. Will this Thackeray government at least listen to Bal Thackeray?” asked Mr. Kale.

Soon after his provocative remarks, the Aurangabad rural police increased security at the ASI-protected monument site to preclude any untoward incident. However, at the request of the mosque committee, a decision was eventually taken by the ASI authorities to close the tomb for a few days.

“Ineffectual Hindutva”

Throwing down the gauntlet at Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena, Mr. Kale had chastised the Sena’s ineffectual ‘Hindutva’ while remarking that it had departed from Bal Thackeray’s hardline Hindutva by flipping on the issue of renaming Aurangabad to ‘Sambhajinagar’ (after Shivaji’s son, Chhatrapati Sambhaji) and failing to remove loudspeakers from mosques.

“The government’s decision to increase security round the tomb is akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of Shivaji’s devotees… it is shameful to increase security round the tomb of the person who brutally murdered Chhatrapati Sambhaji,” said Mr. Kale.

Dubbing the Thackeray government as an ‘anti-Hindu government’, he said the MNS would not rest till it had taught the MVA “a lesson.”

Backdrop of fresh tensions

The BJP also has tried to corner the Sena over its ‘compromised’ Hindutva, creating a fresh controversy around the visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb by Akbaruddin Owaisi, brother of AIMIM chief Asadudin Owaisi, last May 12. The BJP demanded that a sedition case be filed against Akbaruddin Owaisi, lambasting the MVA government for merely standing by and not taking action.

The BJP and the MNS’ responses come against the backdrop of the ongoing fight between the three right-wing parties – the Sena, the BJP and the MNS - over Maharashtra’s ‘Hindutva’ space.

The fight has particularly intensified since the Sena severed ties with its erstwhile saffron ally, the BJP, after the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election to join hands with the ideologically opposed NCP and the Congress.

Following the BJP’s criticism of the MVA, Maharashtra Congress leader Sachin Sawant alleged that when Mr. Owaisi’s brother had likewise visited Aurangzeb’s in 2019, no action had been taken against him despite the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis being Maharashtra Chief Minister at the time.

Accusing the BJP of double-standards, Mr. Sawant had further observed that Darakshan Andrabi, a BJP leader from Jammu and Kashmir, had visited the same site during Mr. Fadnavis’ tenure as CM without incident.

“Aurangzeb’s tomb is under jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India. The Modi government [at the Centre] can control, restrict or even ban entry. Why doesn’t it register a complaint against Akbaruddin Owaisi?” Mr. Sawant had pointedly said in a tweet.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2022 2:02:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/asi-bars-visit-to-aurangazebs-tomb-in-aurangabad-after-mns-vandalism-threats/article65430661.ece