Pushpesh Pant, academic and noted food critic, who has been onboarded as the consultant curator of the archives section of the Indo Islamic Cultural Centre that will come up on the five-acre land given to the Central Sunni Waqf Board, said the centre would bring forth the composite culture through the archives section as well as through the food that would be offered at the community kitchen. The complex will also house a hospital.
The Padma Shri awardee culture expert and historian, who retired as a professor of international relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, said he was looking at the possibility of digital archives along with displaying artefacts, pottery, chikankari work and manuscripts bringing to life the culture of Oudh — a name that, he said, was actually introduced by the British by distorting the name Ayodhya. “The archives will not be intended to display the culture of Lucknow but Ayodhya-Faizabad,” Pant told ET.
Asked whether the structure of the mosque should bear the stamp of being Babri Masjid‘s replacement in its appearance, Pant said it should express “reconciliation” and not remind of a “wound” even as he said he was “touched” that being an atheist who was born a Hindu, he was approached by the Waqf board for his consultancy for the project.
The spokesperson of the trust, called the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF), Athar Hussain, said the centre would revisit the Indo-Islamic tradition that existed before the colonial times and mark a “new beginning” that does not have to be influenced by the “baggage of the Babri Masjid”. Hussain has earlier also said the mosque would not be named after any emperor. The food served would be simple and made using local ingredients, devoid of the “richness” that one associates with Mughlai food and that would make it inaccessible to the common man, he said. Vegetarian, rice made dishes such as tehri, khichdi and other dishes made of easily available meat may feature among the offerings.
SM Akhtar, the founder dean of the faculty of architecture at the Jamia Millia Islamia who has been chosen as the consultant architect for the trust, said the design of the complex would be contemporary, represent “Indian ethos” as well as the “Islamic spirit”, “serve humanity” and adhere to ecological parameters. Akhtar said many architects across the globe were willing to contribute to the construction of the project.