The controversy over the Taj Mahal, stirred recently by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sangeet Som, continued to churn on Wednesday with Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan telling ANI that he feared the Mughal mausoleum would meet the same fate as the Babri Masjid.
“If the Babri Masjid could be destroyed, then any building in the country can be pulled down,” Khan was quoted as saying. “In such a situation, it will be no surprise if the Taj Mahal is also destroyed some day. If the Babri Masjid was demolished in the name of Ram Mandir, then these people can do anything.”
The Samajwadi Party leader was responding to BJP leader Vinay Katiyar’s claim that the Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple, and that its name should be changed. Katiyar had said on Wednesday that the monument was known as the Tejo Mahalaya and had a ‘Shivlinga’, which was later removed.
Katiyar was not the only BJP leader to make contentious remark about the monument. Senior leader Subramanian Swamy told ANI that the Taj Mahal – a Unesco World Heritage Site – was built on property stolen by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan from the kings of Jaipur.
“There is evidence on record that Shah Jahan forced the Raja-Maharajas of Jaipur to sell the land on which the Taj Mahal presently stands, and he gave them a compensation of forty villages, which is nothing compared to the value of the property,” he was quoted as saying.
Swamy said he will release copies of evidence to prove his claim. “The documents also suggest that there was a temple on the property,” the senior BJP leader asserted. “But it is still not clear whether the Taj Mahal was built after the demolition of a temple.”
Earlier in October, the Uttar Pradesh government was criticised for leaving out the monument from the state’s official tourism booklet. A week later, the state minister in charge of religious affairs and culture had said that the “Taj Mahal was not a symbol of any religion and is nobody’s”, and that the monument had been “rightly kept out [of the tourism booklet]”.