ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Letter to India: In Manto's Spirit

On the lines of Sadat Hasan Manto's facetious letters to Uncle Sam written at the height of the cold war when Pakistan was being wooed by the US as an ally to fight communism, this letter was written in 2002 to the then Prime Minister Vajpayee by historian Ayesha Jalal. Written as a spirited assessment of the standoff between India and Pakistan, the letter is peppered with rare insights that have always been Manto's hallmark.

The New 'Love' Story of the Taj Mahal

Home to a legacy from history, Agra boasts of a number of historical monuments. This paper focuses on the urban planning implications and socio-spatial consequences of heritage tourism in Agra. Tim Edensor's categorisation of tourist space as "enclavic" or "heterogeneous," Aihwa Ong's zones of exception and the concept of "elite capture" provide the key conceptual frames that inform the study. The paper argues that global heritage tourism has reconfigured everyday life and the spatial geography of Agra, often deepening urban inequalities. The most affected by these new developments are the poor communities living in and around the Taj Mahal for centuries, who find themselves alienated as their world is taken over by the juggernaut of heritage tourism.

Secularising the 'Secular'

The Taj Mahal can also be seen as a religious place of worship, as the local Muslim community is allowed to offer prayers at the mosque situated inside the Taj complex. The monument is also privy to two kinds of publics - a congregation that offers prayers at the mosque, paying no attention to the central building, and a "public", which stays at the central building and seems to follow the given official meanings of the Taj as a world heritage site. Is it possible to look at the Taj merely as a secular historical monument? If yes, how can we respond to the religious meanings embedded in the very architectural composition of the buildings? Are Muslims, as a religious minority, entitled to use spaces such as the mosque in the Taj Mahal to offer congregational prayers? This article explores these questions to understand the practice and politics of "secularism" in postcolonial India.
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