AIMIM stirs communal pot with Akbaruddin Owaisi’s Aurangzeb tomb visit

Aurangzeb is reviled for his religious zeal and the brutal killing of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj makes him a deeply polarising figure.
The AIMIM, which has a strong base in Hyderabad, entered Maharashtra politics in 2012 by winning 11 seats in the Nanded civic elections (ANI)
The AIMIM, which has a strong base in Hyderabad, entered Maharashtra politics in 2012 by winning 11 seats in the Nanded civic elections (ANI)
Published on May 14, 2022 12:03 AM IST
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Mumbai: Stirring the communal pot after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) short-lived campaign against loudspeakers on mosques, All India Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi paid his respects at the tomb of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb at Khuldabad in Aurangabad on Thursday.

Aurangzeb is reviled for his religious zeal and the brutal killing of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj makes him a deeply polarising figure. The visit and ensuing polarisation may help the AIMIM corner a section of the minority votes in the forthcoming local body polls while also helping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gain some of the pro-Hindutva votes.

The BJP claims that the Shiv Sena, which is in a coalition of extremes with the “secular” Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is unable to respond to this obvious assertion as it has compromised on its commitment to Hindutva for the sake of power.

Any addition in religious polarisation will also have ramifications in communally sensitive Aurangabad and the larger Marathwada region. The civic polls in Aurangabad, which is a Sena stronghold, are due later this year, and the party is likely to push for the city to be officially renamed ‘Sambhajinagar’ after the warrior king instead of the Mughal emperor. The social cleavage may also work in the favour of the AIMIM and to the detriment of Congress and NCP.

The AIMIM, which has a strong base in Hyderabad, entered Maharashtra politics in 2012 by winning 11 seats in the Nanded civic elections. The 2014 assembly elections saw journalist Imtiaz Jaleel win the Aurangabad (Central) seat and in 2019, Jaleel trounced the Shiv Sena’s old warhorse Chandrakant Khaire to be elected as a Lok Sabha MP from the city.

“The question is, what is he (Owaisi) trying to do? What message is he giving to Shivpremis (those who revere Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) and Hindus?” charged BJP MLA Nitesh Rane.

He questioned why the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government under Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had not booked Owaisi for sedition. “None of Balasaheb’s (late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray) hardcore Shiv Sainiks have liked this… Shivpremis across Maharashtra and India are angry,” he alleged charging the MVA with going soft on Owaisi.

Rane claimed that if the AIMIM legislator was handed over to them for ten minutes, they would teach him a lesson.

Independent legislator Ravi Rana, who had been arrested with his wife Navneet Kaur Rana, an independent Lok Sabha MP from Amravati, for threatening to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside Thackeray’s family residence at Bandra East, too chided the chief minister over Owaisi. Rana questioned if Uddhav would begin his public meeting in Mumbai on Saturday by chanting the Hanuman Chalisa or by showering flowers on Aurangzeb’s tomb.

However, the Shiv Sena lashed out at Owaisi. “These are not rituals but an attempt to bow before [Aurangzeb’s tomb] to create unease in Maharashtra. Aurangzeb was not some Sufi saint; he was an aggressor who destroyed temples and killed people. I wish to tell them (Owaisi) that the Marathas have put Aurangzeb, who ruled Maharashtra for 25 years, in the ground. The ones, who are politicising the whole thing, too will meet the same end,” said Shiv Sena MP and chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut.

The AIMIM said that the visit was a commonplace one. “There are many dargahs of spiritual leaders at Khuldabad… anyone coming to Khuldabad comes to the mazaar (resting place) of Aurangzeb. There is no need to interpret this differently,” Jaleel had said after the visit.

“This is nothing new or unusual. The Owaisi brothers often go to dargahs. But due to social media, what was a private affair, is now public knowledge… they have visited this tomb in the past as well. Since 2014, such things have been happening for years, like wearing the hijab had become a public discourse,” said a senior AIMIM leader.

“In 2014, the BJP came to power due to communal polarisation and majoritarian assertion,” the leader said when asked about Aurangzeb being a polarizing figure.

“Aurangzeb was the last powerful Mughal emperor. He has an ascetic inclination and was not a debauch like his predecessors,” he explained.

Senior journalist and analyst Hemant Desai said that though the AIMIM was trying to pass off this visit as a routine one, it was an obvious attempt to energise the Muslims. “It must be noted that Owaisi targeted the MNS in his speech and ignored the Shiv Sena, which is the principal antagonist of the AIMIM in Aurangabad. The BJP too wants the MNS to grow. Hence, it is an obvious noora kushti (staged fight) here. The MNS, BJP and AIMIM are ranged together against the MVA,” he explained.

“This is an attempt to provoke a reaction. Aurangzeb’s resting place is a simple one. People do not go there for worship but to merely see it,” said Jaidev Dole, senior journalist and author based in Aurangabad. Dole pointed to how the AIMIM had its roots in the Razakars, who wanted to resist the integration of the princely state of Hyderabad ruled by the Nizam into India. “Unfortunately, it is the common Muslim and Hindu who have to bear the brunt of such communal politics,” he rued.

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