Thousands of Muslim pilgrims entered the Taj Mahal without tickets on the pretext of offering prayers, as security personnel and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials struggled to maintain order.
According to reliable sources, for close to three hours on Friday there was total chaos at the historical monument here and all security arrangements came to a naught as pilgrims returning from Ajmer Urs entered in huge numbers. The Taj Mahal, which is closed to visitors on Fridays, opens for about two hours in the afternoon to allow local Muslims to offer prayers at the mosque inside.
ASI officials said that the government directive failed to distinguish between locals and outsiders, who took advantage of this ambiguity, resulting in utter chaos Friday. While CISF Commandant Khammo Singh confirmed that over 7,000 people had entered the Taj, she said there was no breakdown of security at the mausoleum. She, however, agreed that the directive was indeed confusing.
According to eyewitness accounts, over 10,000 people barged into the monument as security personnel found it tough to screen every one of them and one of them said: “Those who entered the Taj Friday were definitely not there just to offer prayers.” This confusion is also said to have resulted in substantial revenue losses through the non-sale of tickets.
Meanwhile, the right-wing Shiv Sena announced they will perform a ‘Maha aarti’ (Hindu services) at the Taj Monday to reassert their claim of the mausoleum being built at the site of a Shiva temple. When asked how they would enter, a Sena official said: “This will be a guerrilla operation.” Shiv Sainiks believe that the Taj Mahal was originally a Rajput structure, which housed a Shiva temple. They have prepared a long list of evidence in support of their claim, which most historians do not accept.
According to sources, hundreds of Muslims have been forcibly entering the historical monument situated across the Taj Mahal called Etmauddaula, commonly known as ‘Baby Taj’ in the past few weeks. People come in on the pretext of saying prayers, but they all enjoy a picnic and leave.
Many foreign tourists who saw the scuffle between the crowds and police personnel chose to return.