The museum was intended to display the weapons, art and fashion of the Mughals, Muslim rulers who ruled the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to the 18th century.
But officials this week in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, the world’s most famous example of Mughal-era architecture and India’s best-known building, had another idea: a redesign. complete the museum so that it instead celebrates India’s Hindu majority, rulers and history.
The changes to the planned museum are the latest example of a Hindu nationalist revival sweeping the country, spurred on by the country’s People’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Critics of the government say Mr. Modi and his supporters are stoking the flames of religious divide, damaging India’s secular foundation and rewriting the country’s history to remove Muslim achievements from the narrative.
The land was broken for the museum in 2016 after funding was approved under the previous government, but little progress was made in its construction.
Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state in which Agra is located, said on Monday that he would not allow India’s Muslim rulers to be linked with such a museum and that the building would instead be named for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a 17th century Hindu warrior king.
How can the Mughals be our heroes? Mr Adityanath asked, according to a government transcript of his words. As if to recall that in today’s India, Hinduism and patriotism are increasingly intertwined, he added, the very name of Shivaji will evoke a sense of nationalism and esteem for self.
Mr. Adityanath, member of the Mr. Modis Bharatiya Janata party, is so hostile to the recognition of the country’s Muslim history that when he took office in 2017, he considered excluding the images of the Taj Mahal from state tourist brochures.
Shortly after, the Indian Parliament passed a law that enshrines discrimination against Muslim immigrants who apply for citizenship. The law has sparked large street protests across the country, but before the protests can taint Mr Modis’ agenda, the coronavirus has hit and the prime minister has imposed a strict nationwide lockdown.
Muslims make up 14 percent of India’s population, but say they are increasingly under attack, both physically, there has been a surge in violence against Muslims and politically. As India continues to grapple with tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases, Muslims have been accused of being super-spreaders of the disease.
Shahid Siddique, a Muslim and former member of parliament, said the museum controversy is the latest example of Hindu nationalists trying to eradicate Muslim history.
Agra is not a city of Shivaji, he said of the Indian king whose museum will henceforth bear the name. But in the city of Taj, the city of the Mughals, you cannot have a Mughal museum, he said, with a note of disbelief.
Hindu nationalists say Muslims play the victim by complaining about the museum. Vinod Bansal, a Hindu nationalist leader, described the Mughals as foreign invaders who conquered India to plunder it, and as such should not be hailed as national heroes.
When the country gained independence, the Union Jack was demolished. The statues of George V and Queen Victoria were smashed. But no Christian has raised the question that you are attacking Christianity, he said.
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