As the Hanuman Chalisa vs Azan row in Maharashtra peters out, there’s a new storm brewing.
A political slugfest has erupted after Akbaruddin Owaisi, the controversial leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), paid his respects at the tomb of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb at Khuldabad near Aurangabad last Thursday.
The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have cried foul over the visit and attacked the Telangana MLA, saying it was his attempt to vitiate the atmosphere in Maharashtra.
Many political pundits see the visit as a perfect opportunity for the BJP to trip up the Sena — with the former questioning the Sena’s “hesitation” in taking action against those who visited Aurangzeb’s tomb.
What’s the row over then? Is it a crime to visit Aurangzeb’s tomb? What’s the political angle here? Here are all the answers.
Aurangzeb’s tomb in Aurangabad
History records that the Marathas and the Mughals, led by Aurangzeb, were engaged in a 25-year-long guerrilla war, in which Shivaji finally prevailed.
Worn out by the strain of his campaign against the Maratha, Aurangzeb, died in 1707, consumed by the ‘Deccani ulcer’ as memorably put by his most famous historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar.
Aurangzeb was laid to rest at Khuldabad village about 25 kilometres away from Aurangabad as per his dying wish.
Unlike several grand tombs built in the memory of Mughal Emperors, the Aurangzeb Tomb is an unmarked grave at the Dargah of his spiritual guru, Sheikh Zainuddin.
The Tomb of Aurangzeb is a simple grave with no ceiling and nothing that denotes the grandeur of an emperor. A British Statesman, Lord Curzon, tidied the place with marble as a mark of respect for the Emperor. It is always covered with a plain white sheet of fabric and sometimes, visitors offer flowers to him.
Owaisi stirs hornet’s nest
On 12 May, the five-term MLA from Chandrayangutta in Telangana, courted controversy when he visited Emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb along with Imtiaz Jaleel, who is the AIMIM MP from Aurangabad and former MLA Waris Pathan.
Maharashtra | AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi visited the tomb of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the Khuldabad area of Aurangabad district yesterday pic.twitter.com/ma2IiJ7pMF
— ANI (@ANI) May 13, 2022
The visit quickly drew condemnation from other political parties with the Shiv Sena coming down heavily on Owaisi, accusing him of deliberately attempting to disturb Maharashtra’s peace with his actions.
Shiv Sena MP and party spokesperson Sanjay Raut said Aurangzeb fought against Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and after his death with the Marathas for 25 years. Sanjay Raut claimed that by offering namaz at Aurangzeb’s tomb, the Owaisi brothers (Akbaruddin and Asaduddin) were challenging Maharashtra.
“Owaisi brothers are doing politics with an aim to vitiate the atmosphere of Maharashtra. We have accepted this challenge. We buried Aurangzeb in this soil. His (Aurangzeb) followers, who want to do politics, will meet the same fate in Maharashtra,” Raut said, as per a PTI report.
Shiv Sena leader Chandrakant Khaire also chimed in, alleging that Owaisi was trying to create a political controversy. “No one, neither a Hindu or a Muslim, visits the tomb as Aurangzeb was the cruelest Mughal emperor. But Owaisi and his party leaders are trying to create a controversy for political benefit,” Khaire said.
The BJP lashed out at Owaisi and also their one-time ally, the Sena, demanding that the ruling government to show some spine and charge the AIMIM leader with sedition.
Maharashtra BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said that AIMIM MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi had insulted “nationalist Muslims” of the country by trying to glorify Aurangzeb.
“Owaisi has attempted to glorify Aurangzeb and, thus, has insulted the nationalist Muslims in this country. Aurangzeb can never be an idol for Muslims in this country. He had tortured Sambhajiraje before killing him,” Devendra Fadnavis said.
“We will not tolerate anything that glorifies Aurangzeb in any way. Those who are trying to do so should face some action. If someone clicks a photograph in Lilavati hospital (referring to images of Independent MP Navneet Rana in the MRI room), this state government immediately rushes to act but does nothing in this matter,” the former chief minister added.
On 15 May, Fadnavis issued a scathing criticism of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state, saying they should be ashamed of what they saw.
He also sent a message to Owaisi, saying that ‘even a dog will not pee on the identity of Aurangzeb’.
#WATCH | Asadudin Owaisi goes and pays tribute to Aurangzeb on his grave and you keep seeing that, you should feel ashamed of it. Listen to me Owaisi, even a dog will not pee on the identity of Aurangzeb...: Former Maharashtra CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, in Mumbai pic.twitter.com/odneDyNvtZ
— ANI (@ANI) May 15, 2022
BJP MLA Nitesh Rane took it one step further, asking that the Maharashtra Police “hand over Owaisi for 10 minutes” and they would send him to the same place as Aurangzeb.
“You are challenging us… We, the Marathas have put him there, for 25 years, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fought him. He (Aurangzeb) was not some Sufi saint,” said Rane.
The Maharashtra Navnirma Sena, led by Raj Thackeray, also took umbrage to Owaisi’s visit to Aurangzeb’s tomb. Gajanan Kale, an MNS leader from Navi Mumbai, said, “The Maharashtra government should take action against Owaisi for visiting the tomb of Aurangzeb. If no action is taken, then the MNS will take the matter in its own hands.”
Sena’s ally and Mahashtra’s veteran leader, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) also chimed in, saying that the visit was done with the aim to “create a new controversy” in the western state “which is functioning peacefully”.
“These people know the history of Maharashtra and India. What Aurangzeb did in his era is also known. It is not right for someone from outside Maharashtra to come to the state and create a new issue,” the NCP chief was quoted as saying news agency PTI.
What’s the fuss?
AIMIM MP from Aurangabad Imtiaz Jaleel, who had accompanied the junior Owaisi to the tomb, however, felt the matter was being turned into a political issue for nothing.
Speaking on the issue, Jaleel was quoted as saying, “There are many dargahs of spiritual leaders and tombs of great men at Khuldabad… anyone coming here invariably visits Aurangzeb’s resting place as well. It is part of our religion to read the namaaz while visiting any holy place. There is no need to interpret this visit differently.”
With inputs from agencies