The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) today closed public access to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb in District Aurangabad, Maharashtra, for five days after a mosque committee in the area tried to lock the place yesterday, officials said. The day before, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) spokesperson Gajanan Kale had in a tweet questioned the need for the monument’s existence in the state and said it should be destroyed.
Kale’s comment followed AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi’s visit to the tomb earlier this month, which the Shiv Sena, as well as the BJP and the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, had deplored. While BJP leaders demanded that Owaisi be booked under sedition charges, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had wondered if such an act was aimed at creating a new controversy in Maharashtra which has been peaceful.
Rural police in District Aurangabad tightened security at the ASI-protected monument site at Khuldabad and the ASI office to avoid any kind of untoward incident and proper screening of every person was being done. However, the mosque committee requested authorities to stop public access to the tomb for a few days and deploy police, following which the ASI made the decision.
ASI’s Aurangabad circle superintendent Milankumar Chauley confirmed that the tomb had been shut for five days from today at the request of the mosque committee and the police. A cop in the Aurangabad rural police said, “The situation at the monument site is under control and no untoward incident has taken place. However, the tomb has been shut for tourists as a precautionary measure.”
Meanwhile, Agra mayor Naveen Jain said he had appealed to all mayors, in the capacity of the national president of the mayor’s council, to remove all plaques of Aurangzeb from all places. If there are roads named after Aurangzeb, those should be renamed, as there should not be any place for cruel ruler Aurangzeb in India, the mayor said. “Aurangzeb was a cruel ruler who destroyed Hindu temples and also compelled people of the Hindu community to convert to Islam. There should not be any place for Aurangzeb in India,” Jain said.
This comment came amid a row over Owaisi’s recent visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb in Aurangabad too. After MNS leader Kale’s tweet, some people in the Khultabad area, where the tomb is situated, tried to lock the structure, which is protected by the ASI. The department’s authorities confirmed the news, saying that additional security had been deployed at the tomb.
Last month, speaking on the occasion of the 400th birth anniversary of Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said Guru Tegh Bahadur stood like a rock against Aurangzeb’s tyranny. “The Red Fort is a witness that even though Aurangzeb severed many heads, he could not shake our faith,” the prime minister had said.
Gyanvapi Masjid-related cases are being heard at a Varanasi court and the Supreme Court. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had ordered its construction after asking his army to demolish the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir partially in 1669. Unlike in the now-settled dispute between Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid in Ayodhya where some historians argued that the history of Babur’s period was not clearly known, none denies the action of Aurangzeb in the 17th century in Varanasi.