Adityanath visits Taj Mahal: The monument of love is caught in a political storm
The Uttar Pradesh CM’s decision to visit the Taj Mahal was announced after the series of controversies began with a UP tourism department booklet not mentioning the monument in its list of development projects in the state.Updated: Oct 26, 2017 11:08 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Taj Mahal – India’s famed white marble monument of love -- has been caught in a political storm, with some members of the ruling BJP questioning its heritage and place in the country’s history.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was visiting the Taj Mahal on Thursday. The CM’s decision to visit the Taj Mahal was announced after the series of controversies began with a UP tourism department booklet not mentioning the monument in its list of development projects in the state.
Here are the recent controversies around the 17th century monument:
Left out of UP budget heritage plan
The monument isn’t part of Uttar Pradesh’s cultural heritage, according to the Yogi Adityanath government’s first state budget presented in July. The move has invited criticism by academics.
The annual budget for 2017-2018 makes no mention of Taj Mahal in the special section ‘Hamari Sanskritik Virasat’ (Our Cultural Heritage) incorporated in the finance minister’s 63-page speech.
The Taj Mahal was one of a string of monuments and heritage sites that was left out of the budget, triggering criticism that the exercise was communally inspired and bore the Hindutva stamp. A number of schemes were announced for Hindu pilgrimage towns of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Mathura and Chitrakoot.
‘Blot on Indian culture’
Sangeet Som, a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party, called the 17th century monument “a blot on Indian culture” that was built by “traitors.”
The controversial BJP lawmaker from Sardhana in Meerut also misquoted history by saying that Shah Jahan, who built the 17th century marble mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, had jailed his father and wanted to wipe out Hindus from the country.
“Many people were disappointed that the Taj Mahal was removed from the UP tourism booklet. What history are we talking about? Whose history?
“The creator of the Taj Mahal (Shah Jahan) imprisoned his father. He wanted to wipe out all Hindus from India,” he said.
Will govt now tell tourists not to visit Taj: Owaisi
Som’s comments drew angry condemnation from Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who asked if the government would urge tourists not to visit the Taj Mahal and other monuments built by India’s former Muslim rulers.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also condemned Som’s remarks on Taj Mahal, saying that it’s BJP’s agenda to destroy India’s culture and heritage.
Taking a pot shot at Uttar Pradesh government for renaming the Mughalsarai railway station to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay railway station, she said, “I don’t know how they excluded Taj Mahal! They changed Mughalsarai’s name. If they want to change India’s name, where will we go?”
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath later appeared to snub Som, saying “it does not matter who built it and for what reason; it was built by blood and sweat of Indian labourers”.
Last month, the CM had said foreign dignitaries visiting his state should be gifted a copy of the Hindu religious book “Bhagvad Gita” instead of replicas of the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal a mausoleum built on Shiva temple: Vinay Katiyar
Giving a new twist to the string of controversies, senior BJP leader Vinay Katiyar said it was Lord Shiva’s temple called ‘Tejo Mahal’ which was converted into a mausoleum by Shah Jahan.
He, however, added that he does not want the monument as famous as this, which is among the wonders of the world, to be demolished.
“It was constructed by Hindu kings, the rooms and carvings there prove that it was a Hindu monument... it has also been termed as one by historian PN Oak,” he said about the Taj.
Taj is on stolen property: Subramanian Swamy
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy later said he had access to documents that suggest the property where the Taj Mahal was built was stolen by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan from kings of Jaipur.
“There is evidence on record that Shah Jahan forced the Raja-Maharajas of Jaipur to sell this land on which Taj Mahal presently is standing, and he gave them a compensation of forty villages, which is nothing compared to the value of the property,” Swamy told ANI.
‘A beautiful graveyard’
Adding to the controversies, Haryana minister Anil Vij described the monument as a “beautiful graveyard”.
“Taj Mahal ek khoobsurat kabristan hai,” the minister for health and sports in the BJP government in Haryana tweeted.
Katiyar jumps back in
Vinay Katiyar triggered another row when he came out in support of youth who were caught reciting ‘Shiv Chalisa’ inside the premises of the Taj Mahal. He said the act should not be condemned as there are many signs that show the monument was originally a Shiv Temple.
Katiyar’s statement came a day after, the youth, belonging to the Rashtra Swabhimaan Dal (RSD) and the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), were caught reciting ‘Shiv Chalisa’ inside the premises of the Taj Mahal, causing tension at the iconic monument.
With inputs from agencies
First Published: Oct 26, 2017 09:10 IST