Showcase India’s past, embrace it and monetise it
If one were to question the antecedents of each monument or heritage site, we would be impoverishing our own culture which is not monolithic and exclusiveeditorials Updated: Oct 18, 2017 13:15 IST
The publicity-seeking pronouncements of BJP MLA Sangeet Som must be seen for what they are – pandering to what he thinks is his constituency. But what is worrying is that this sort of folly is becoming the trend among a certain class of politician who try to prove their patriotic credentials by casting aspersions on the past and its contributions. So we have people like Azam Khan in an attempt at irony questioning the legitimacy of Rashtrapati Bhavan and asking for the destruction of old structures and of course a myriad so-called nationalists attacking Mughal monuments.
The answer should have come in no uncertain terms from the tourism minister – these monuments are a magnet for Indian tourism and a huge revenue generator. It makes eminent sense to promote these as part of our inclusive heritage and market them to both national and foreign tourists, not to mention that they provide a rich seam of information for historians and students. After all, much of Goa’s tourism is based on the fact that it was a Portuguese colony, Puducherry’s unique draw is its French heritage and Kerala’s lovely churches and magnificent synagogue draw people from all over the world. These were not indigenously created and we are justifiably proud of them. Other countries have appropriated artefacts from different places as for example the Elgin marbles which were taken to Britain from Greece and showcased as attractions. Similarly, vast treasures from India generate revenue for the British government as also do Egyptian artefacts. Istanbul’s Sofia Hagia was first a church, then a mosque, a church again and today a mosque. This is seen today as a symbol of a glorious Ottoman past and draws millions to a country which is a fraction of the size of India. Many monuments in Spain were once Islamic in nature but are today Christian sites.
The past is something to be embraced and displayed as part of our collective heritage. If one were to question the antecedents of each monument or heritage site, we would be impoverishing our own culture which is not monolithic and exclusive. Clearly, those who consider ancient monuments a blot on our national credentials have little knowledge of history or its rich and subtle nuances. In which case, they should know when to leave well alone. It is not enough to say that money will be spent on the surroundings of structures like the Taj, their historical value and significance should be emphasised. These should not even be a matter of political discussion unless it is with a view to enhancing their importance and monetary worth. The Taj is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, one which has moved poets like Tagore to great lyricism. No one, and certainly, not petty political personalities should be allowed to detract from that.