New Delhi: BJP MLA Sangeet Som has called the Taj Mahal "a blot on Indian culture" and a monument "built by traitors", prompting the Uttar Pradesh government to clarify it's part of "our proud heritage".
"Many people were disappointed that the Taj Mahal was removed from UP 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," said Som.
The Uttar Pradesh government responded to the controversy and said Taj Mahal is a part of "our proud heritage". "It might be his individual opinion, CM Yogi Adityanath and I call it part of our cultural heritage. It is heritage and it is a major tourist spot. We are committed to the upliftment of Agra and Taj. From a tourist's point of view, we are proud of the Taj Mahal," said Reeta Bahuguna Joshi.
The opposition condemned Som’s charges. “BJP is preaching hatred. History can’t be changed. We must learn from history, both good and bad. These comments are by people who are stuck in history and have a narrow mindset,” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson, CP Rai.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi lashed out at Sangeet Som and the BJP for the comments and said, "The Red Fort was built by the same group of traitors. Will PM Narendra Modi stop hoisting the flag from there? Can Modi and Yogi ask domestic, foreign tourists to not visit the Taj?"
BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao defended Som, saying that the leader was entitled to his opinion. "There have been attempts to distort Indian history. It is a symbol of barbarism and it is a monument. I will say what I have to say. As far as Som is concerned, he has the freedom of speech. That is his personal view and there need not be a party line on every statement," said Rao.
The UP tourism booklet, which was released to mark six months of the Yogi Adityanath government in UP, includes plans for new attractions including a tour of monuments and locations central to the Ramayana. It also includes existing tourist destinations like the Gorakhpur temple (of which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the main priest). It mysteriously though, does not feature the Taj.
Yogi had earlier said that the monument "had no connection with India's culture or heritage", in context of gifting tiny models of the Taj Mahal to visiting foreign dignitaries by previous governments.
Former UP CM and Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav had earlier defended the monument and said that it continues to be "an architectural marvel and a much-visited monument that generates employment for a large number of people".