New Delhi: On Tuesday morning, Delhi police and CRPF troops surrounded the iconic Qutub Minar in Delhi after a Hindutva group — Hindu United Front — announced that they will recite the Hanuman Chalisa at the UNESCO world heritage site built in 13th century. For nearly three hours, the Qutub Minar was surrounded by government forces in order to refrain members of right-wing groups from entering the Minar.
As the police prepared for trouble, more than two dozen people assembled at Bhoel Bhulanyan (a historical complex) near Mehrauli Chowk in the southern part of Delhi, around 500 meters away from Minar, to hold a protest.
They demanded that the monument be renamed "Vishnu Stambha" as, they claimed, it used to be a temple before the centuries-old minaret was created.
"Ayodhiya Ki Tayari Hai, Kashi Matura Baki hai," (Getting ready for Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura are left) the group of people, members of the Hindu United Front (HUF), raised slogans in unison.
Sitting in a corner of the complex, holding a saffron flag in his hand, 24-year-old civil engineering student Anand Thakur eagerly waited to lead the protest. After chanting Hanuman Chalisa on the complex premises, he directed the youth on how they will lead the protest towards the Minar.
Two months ago, Thakur along with senior members of the outfit had created a WhatsApp group called "Hindu Rashtra" to coordinate with the members of the organisation for this protest. Hailing from Gaziabad area of Uttar Pradesh, Thakur believes that Qutub Minar was a place of Hindus and Muslim rulers had hijacked it.
"It was Vishnu Stambh earlier and when Muslims were ruling here (referring to Mughal rule), they have given it its own name. We demanded it should be called by the original name," he told BOOM.
The inscriptions on the Qutub Minar on the first storey are primarily Quranic, while those of the additional four-storey are mainly historical epigraphs dating from the reigns of iltutmish and Firoz Shah Tughlaq.
The 24-year-old engineering student said that the preparations for the protest had been on for two months. "First we want this place to be renamed Vishnu Stambh. We have a list of other places that should be renamed as well," he said.
Thakur believes that the country should be declared as a Hindu nation in order to protect its identity. "Hindus have only this country and all other countries have been taken by Muslims. Where will we go other than this country? We are doing this for our future generation and we have apprehensions that our identity is in danger. For this reason, we wanted India to be a Hindu nation," Thakur tried to explain the reason for participation in such a protest.
As HUF started heading towards Qutub Minar, members of another outfit Mahakal Manav Sewa joined them. However, the police detained them soon after they were near the Qutub Minar.
Hindutva Group's Claim: Qutub Minar Was Vishnu Stambh
Renaming Delhi's famous monument Qutub Minar is an old demand of members of Hindu organisations. Earlier this year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spokesman Vinod Bansal had claimed that Qutub Minar was actually "Vishnu Stambh." He said that the monument was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples.
"Qutub Minar was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples. The superimposed structure was built just to tease the Hindu community," the VHP spokesman had said.
He demanded all the 27 temples which he claimed were demolished in the past, be established again.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Jai Bhagwan Goyal, who is also the national president of Rashtrawadi Shiv Sena, alleged that he was placed under house arrest at his home in Shahdara. The police had told him that they have orders from the CP (commissioner of police) not to allow him to join the protest.
"We had given a call for reciting the Hanuman Chalisa at the Qutub Minar, demanding that it be declared as Vishnu Stambh since it was made by breaking down 27 temples," said Goyal.
In the memorandum submitted to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Goyal expressed that the "so-called" Qutub Minar was actually an old Vishnu temple. "It is well known that and specified clearly on the walls of the complex that it was constructed from the material got after demolishing 27 temples. There are statues of Hindu gods in the complex," he said.
He explained that Qutubuddin Aibak is considered to be the architect of the monument, however, many historians have said this is the deed of "chatukaar (sycophant) Muslim writers" and that the actual architect was Chandragupta Vikramaditya.
"It is our long-awaited demand that the idols of Ganesh and other gods kept in the Minar should be shifted to a respectable place like a Museum, and pooja-aarti be restarted in the temple like earlier and place should be named as the Vishnu Stambh," Goyal mentioned in the memorandum.
"I Skipped School To Join The Protests"
In the last row of the protest of the Hindu United Front was 18-year-old Jai, a 10th grade student from Ghaziabad.
"I don't want my family to see me on TV in the protest as I have not told them about it. I skipped my school today and they don't know about it," he said as he tried to evade the media cameras.
The 18-year-old was asked by Thakur to join the protest and the prayer which they had planned to execute at the Qutub Minar. He had no strong reason for taking part in the protest as he expressed that he couldn't say "No" to Thakur.
"Bhaya (referring to Thakur) told me to come and I could not say no to him. I respect him as he does social work in our locality and in temples. I am worried about if my parents will see me on TV and how will they react," he told BOOM.
Around 500 meters away from the protest site as protestors with saffron flags raised slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram', long queues of tourists from different states of India and from outside could be seen waiting at the gates of Qutub Minar. They had come there to visit the place.
"We are waiting since 1 pm to go inside. They (police) told us that after 2 pm they will allow us but it's already 2:10 pm and the gates are still locked. I don't think we can visit it today. This place was on our bucket list of places to visit in Delhi and we were excited before arriving here," said Bhavik Gangurde, a tourist from Mumbai.
Standing next to a barricade placed on the entrance of Minar along with his parents and siblings, wiping sweat from his forehead, Gangurde in an angry tone asked his father "I don't understand what these people achieve by making common people suffer for nothing?"
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