A day after BJP MLA Sangeet Som declared that the Taj Mahal was a "blot on India culture", Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath broke his silence on the issue and said that it does not matter who built it and for what reason. "It was built by blood and sweat of Indian labourers."
Adityanath also announced his plan to visit the monument on 26 October. The chief minister will reach Agra on 25 October, ANI reported.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to be in Agra on 25th October, will visit Taj Mahal and other monuments in the city.
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 17, 2017
The visit by the chief minister, which comes a day after Som's remarks on the Taj, is seen as BJP's attempts at damage control. The Uttar Pradesh government found itself in a hard place when media reported that the government failed to feature the UNESCO world heritage site in their tourism booklet called 'Uttar Pradesh Paryatan-Apaar Sambhavnayen'. Som on Monday had called the Taj Mahal 'a blot on Indian culture.'
Speaking to ANI, Adityanath referred to the controversy and said that the Taj Mahal is very important, especially from the perspective of tourism, "it is our priority to provide facilities and safety to tourists there (Agra)."
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 17, 2017
It is very imp for us, especially from tourism perspective it is our priority to provide facilities & safety to tourists there: CM #TajMahal pic.twitter.com/exOCYL0YgD — ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 17, 2017
Speaking to India Today, Adityanath said that he does not agree with Som's remarks and Taj Mahal and Red Fort are both part of India's heritage. He further said that we should work to protect the monument because it was built by India's labourers. Responding to Opposition's remarks, he said that no one should focus on them.
He added that his government is committed to serving the tourists visiting Agra. "Government has planned tourism projects worth Rs 370 crore under which schemes are meant for Taj mahal and the surrounding areas," he told India Today.
Earlier, Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, the minister in charge of religious affairs and culture had also said that keeping out the Taj Mahal was necessary because the current government in Uttar Pradesh is "rashtravadi (nationalist)" and runs on "dharm niti" (religious policy). Opposition leaders, especially Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, criticised the Adityanath government in harsh words and called the chief minister a "mindless king". Akhilesh Yadav chimed in saying that Taj Mahal generates employment for a lot of people.
The controversy gathered steam on Monday when Som, while talking about the removal of the Taj Mahal from the tourism booklet, said, "Many people were disappointed that the Taj Mahal was removed from Uttar Pradesh tourism booklet. What history are we talking about? The creator of Taj Mahal (Shahjahan) imprisoned his father. He wanted to wipe out Hindus. If these people are part of our history, then it is very sad and we will change this history."
After Son's remarks, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan said that not only Taj Mahal, even "Parliament house, President house, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Agra Fort should be demolished for all these are signs of slavery." He added that not destroying such a symbol is a sign of political impotency.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi responded to Som's remarks, saying "traitors also built the Red Fort. Will the prime minister stop hoisting the Tricolour?"
Incidentally, Adityanath had himself said that the monument has no connection with India's culture in June this year. According to him, the UNESCO world heritage site in Agra isn't Indian enough. The context of his comments was regarding gifts and souvenirs given to foreign dignitaries visiting the nations.
"Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture... This is the first time this has happened that when India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes abroad, or any foreign president visits India, he is gifted the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita or the Ramayan," Adityanath said.
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Updated Date: Oct 17, 2017 13:54:27 IST