Excise and taxation chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Saroop Chand Singla recent announcement to install a statue of Razia Sultana at Bibiwala Chowk here has sparked a debate regarding the proposal.
The announcement came during a function organised by the local hotel, restaurants and resorts association on September 28 to mark World Tourism Day.
However, the proposal has attracted flak from cultural activists in the city, who claim that the statue of Razia Sultana would not be of much historical relevance as she had spent only a small part of her imprisonment in the Qila Mubarak (also known as the Bathinda Fort), while the fort had been there for several hundred years.
Malwa Heritage and Cultural Foundation president Harvinder Singh Khalsa said, "The fort was built by Rajput emperors. Razia Sultana is linked to it only because she was imprisoned here for some time. How can installing a statue help in attracting tourists to the city?"
Labh Singh Sandhu of Punjabi Sath Lakhi Jungle said that installing Razia Sultana's statue was not only irrelevant, but also against the tenets of Islam, which does now allow raising of statues.
"The chowk proposed as the location of the statue has been named for Bibi Karam Kaur, so residents of the nearby areas are not in favour of installing the statue at this place. Besides, Razia Sultana was the first woman ruler, so her statue can be installed at New Delhi. Installing it here is irrelevant," he added.
Associate professor of musicology at the Central University of Punjab Subhash Parihar, however, said that as Razia Sultana was imprisoned in the fort, there was nothing wrong in installing her statue at the chowk.
The Bathinda Fort is believed to been constructed by Raja Dab in 90-110 AD. Historians say that Razia Sultana was imprisoned in the fort in about 1240 AD.
Bathinda hotel, restaurant and resorts association president Satish Malhotra said that Singla had proposed to set up a replica of the fort, which was "misunderstood" as Razia Sulatna's statue. "Installing a replica of the fort will definitely boost tourism in the city," he claimed.
Singla said that he had not proposed to install Razia Sulatana's statue. "I am not a historian. I just know that the fort is known as Razia Sultana Fort. My only motive was to promote the Bathinda Fort to promote tourism in the city. I had only proposed to install a model of the fort," he claimed.