New Delhi, May 26
To all those who are worried about the future of Mughal era monuments in the country, the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) deposition to a Delhi court on Tuesday regarding the Qutub Minar complex has come as a huge relief.
“If they sincerely mean it and will stick to it despite all the madness around, it is surely welcome,” historian and public intellectual S Irfan Habib said when asked about the ASI affidavit at the district court in Saket, adding that the Qutub was a protected monument and worshipping would not be allowed there.
Qutub Minar was not a place of worship, nor could it be revived as one under the laws of the land, ASI told the Delhi court, which reserved its order for June 9 on pleas seeking to restore the right to worship for Hindus and Jains at the Quwwat-Ul-Islam mosque in the monument’s premises.
The petition comes up at a time when there are a number of similar cases in other courts of the country including the high profile Gyanvapi Mosque case at Varanasi and the Taj Mahal case in Lucknow before the Bench of Allahabad High Court.
ASI’s silence in the Taj Mahal case (petition claiming Hindu scriptures and idols can be found in some of the closed rooms of Taj Mahal has been dismissed by the court) aroused the suspicion of scholars who felt that ASI, which is under the Culture Ministry, would not consider doing anything that could annoy the Hindu right.
However, the firm stand taken by the ASI with regard to the Qutub Minar complex has come as a pleasant surprise to scholars who are weary of Hindu rightwing groups’ allergy towards the Mughal era monuments.
“The ASI’s stand is an accomplishment,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, former director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.
Former chairperson of the National Monuments Authority Himanshu Prabha Ray said, “In a country like ours where much of the sacred heritage lies unprotected and uncared for, it is unfortunate that some people find it expedient to go to court against the Archaeological Survey of India that does its best to protect the miniscule number of 3,700 monuments against all odds.”
Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy earlier ruled out excavation of the Qutub Complex to ascertain presence of pre-Islamic ruins.
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