HomeNationASI bans visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb following MNS threats of vandalism

ASI bans visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb following MNS threats of vandalism

ASI shuts tomb for next five days after MNS spokesperson Gajanan Kale called for its destruction 

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Mumbai: Following threat issued 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 Thursday shut the tomb for the next five days to visitors even as the Aurangabad rural police stepped up the security around the structure.

The move of the local administration comes after MNS spokesperson Gajanan Kale in a tweet earlier questioned the “need for the existence of the tomb in Khultabad in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Maharashtra,” calling for its destruction.  

In a video post, Kale, who is the MNS’s Navi Mumbai city president, had taken pot-shots at the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government (of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress) while stating that late Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray himself had questioned the need for the structure’s existence. 

Gajanan Kale in his video post remarked, “On December 18, 2000, the respected Balasaheb Thackeray, in an interview given to the Saamana, (Sena mouthpiece) had said that Aurangzeb’s tomb in Sambhajinagar (Aurangabad as called by Sena and MNS) ought to be destroyed and never rebuilt. Will this Thackeray government at least listen to Balasaheb Thackeray?”

Soon after his controversial remarks, the Aurangabad rural police stepped up security at the ASI-protected monument to pre-empt 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. 

Apparently throwing down the gauntlet at the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena, Kale had lambasted the Sena’s ineffectual ‘Hindutva’ while remarking that it had departed from Balasaheb Thackeray’s hardline Hindutva by tossing on the issue of renaming Aurangabad to ‘Sambhajinagar’ (after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s son, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj) and failing to remove loudspeakers from mosques.

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

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

The controversy over Aurangzeb’s tomb started with All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader and MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi’s recent visit where he offered prayers before the Mughal Emperor’s tomb and laid flowers on it. 

The MIM leader’s display of reverence before the tomb of Aurangzeb – who was Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s nemesis and the slayer of his son, Sambhaji – evoking condemnations from leaders of the ruling Shiv Sena, NCP and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the MNS, who slammed the AIMIM leader’s ‘provocative act’ in the “land of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.” 

The BJP demanded a sedition case be lodged against Owaisi, while lambasting the MVA government for merely watching by and not taking any action. 

The BJP and the MNS’ responses come against the backdrop of the ongoing fight between the three rightwing parties – the Sena, BJP and the MNS – over Maharashtra’s ‘Hindutva’ political 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. This has led the BJP to corner the Sena over its ‘compromised’ Hindutva, with the Aurangzeb tomb issue being blown out of proportion now. 

Following the BJP’s criticism of the MVA, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) leader Sachin Sawant alleged that when Owaisi’s brother – AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi – 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, Sawant had further observed that Darakshan Andrabi, a BJP leader from Jammu and Kashmir, had visited the same site during former BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tenure without incident. 

In a tweet the MPCC leader remarked, “Aurangzeb’s tomb is under jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Aurangabad circle. When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government can control, restrict or even ban entry. Why doesn’t it register a complaint against Akbaruddin Owaisi?”

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