The renaming of the Mughal Museum in Agra by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after Maratha warrior Shivaji has opened a Pandora’s box.
Even as the officials of the Tourism department were scratching their heads to find a cogent link of Shivaji with Agra, the Jat Mahasabha on Friday presented a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister to the district administration demanding that the museum be named after Jat ruler Surajmal as he ruled parts of the Braj area for a significant period of time and he and his son Jawahar Singh emerged as strong counter forces to the Mughals in the region.
Kaptan Singh Chahar, the district president of the Mahasabha, said that though they had great respect for Chhatrapati Shivaji, he didn’t do much for the region.
“In fact, when he was imprisoned by the Mughals during Aurangzeb’s reign, Raja Surajamal’s forefather Rajaram Jat helped him escape from Agra when he was imprisoned in the haveli of Ram Singh,” he claimed.
Ali Nadeem Rezavi, eminent historian and former chairperson of the history department at Aligarh Muslim University, said it is getting bizarre by the day. “Having burned the bones of Akbar by digging up his grave (in Sikandra), they (Jats) have a better claim for the museum!” he wondered.
Mr. Chahar said it was a reaction to the brutal killing of farmer rebel Gokula during Aurangzeb’s reign.
U.P. Tourism department Deputy Director Amit Shrivastava said the government had roped in a private architectural firm, Archohm, to chalk out a business plan for the museum.
Sanctioned during the Samajwadi Party government, the museum is located on the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. “It is a ₹194-crore project out of which ₹72 crore has been sanctioned so far. It will take at least a year for it to be completed.”
On what will be displayed in the museum, Mr. Shrivastava said it was still early days but confirmed a part of it would be dedicated to Braj culture.
Manvendra Kumar Pundhir, professor of history at AMU, said Braj culture had no links with Shivaji. “And if it is about Braj culture, how far will you go back? Will the Kushana artefacts also be included?” he said.
For Braj culture, he said, it would be better to create a research centre in Mathura or surrounding areas of archaeological importance.
Lamenting that we are living in times when ignorance and hate reigns supreme, Prof. Rezavi said, “To date, records of Mughal grants to Vrindavan temples survive.”
He felt as per well-laid-out traditions, the site of museum dictated the theme.
Asking what’s in a name, Sugam Anand, head and professor of history at Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Agra, said the city’s history was not limited to one period. “It is almost a continuous history. So, if a museum is built, I believe it should showcase as many facets of its past as possible,” he said.
Remains of Buddhist, Jain, Shakya and Vaishnav temples have been found in the region, said Prof. Anand. Naming an institution, he said, was often a political tool used by the government of the day. “If it was named Mughal Museum, I would have still liked it to reflect a comprehensive study of Agra’s past and not just a part of medieval history.”