New Delhi: In an apparent reference to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Sangeet Som’s comments that Mughal-built monument Taj Mahal was a “blot on Indian culture”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said no country can move ahead without pride in heritage.
“Nations cannot develop if they don’t take pride in their history and heritage. If they do, they are sure to lose their identity over a period of time,” Modi told media Tuesday.
Som had on Monday stirred a controversy when he called Taj Mahal “a blot on Indian culture” and a monument “built by traitors”.
“Many people were worried that the Taj Mahal was removed from the list of historical places in the Uttar Pradesh tourism booklet. What history are we talking about? The man who built Taj Mahal imprisoned his father. He wanted to massacre Hindus. If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history, I guarantee you,” Som had said while addressing a rally in Meerut.
But in a clear snub to Som, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on Tuesday that Taj was built by the blood and sweat of Indians.
Sons of India
“We must not forget that the Taj Mahal was built by the blood and sweat of Indians. It is a fact which can’t be forgotten. It does not matter who built it and for what reason; it was made by the sons of Bharat Mata [Mother India]. It was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers. I don’t want to go into the depth of who built the Taj and why they made it,” Adityanath said in Gorakhpur district of the north Indian state.
In a face-saving attempt, he announced a visit to Taj on October 26. He said the monument was important to his government, especially from the tourism perspective.
“Taj Mahal is famous the world over for its architecture. It is a historical monument and its protection and further development for tourism is the responsibility of the Uttar Pradesh state government,” he said.
Adityanath has been accused of neglecting Taj purposely. The UP tourism booklet, which was released last week to mark six months of Adityanath government, failed to feature Taj.
Earlier, he had said that Taj had no connection with India’s culture or heritage. However, on Tuesday, he spoke to Som and sought an explanation on his statement.
Why not other monuments?
Responding to Som’s comments, Samajwadi Party lawmaker Azam Khan said on Tuesday, “I have always held the view that all symbols of slavery should be erased. Why only Taj Mahal? Why not Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Qutub Minar and Red Fort? These are all symbols of slavery.”
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and SP chief Akhilesh Singh Yadav also defended Taj stating that it continued to be “an architectural marvel and a much-visited monument that generates employment for a large number of people”.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party chief Asaduddin Owaisi said, “the Red Fort was built by the same group of traitors. Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi stop hoisting the flag from there? Can Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ask domestic, foreign tourists to not visit the Taj?”
But veteran BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao defended Som and said the latter 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,” Rao said.
He described Muslim rule as “barbaric and a period of incomparable intolerance”.
“As far as the Mughal rule in this country is concerned, that period can only be described as exploitative, barbaric and a period of incomparable intolerance which harmed Indian civilisation and traditions immensely,” Rao said.
Reacting to the controversy, cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh state government Reeta Bahuguna Joshi said Taj was part of India’s “proud heritage”.
“It might be his individual opinion, Chief Minister 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 uplift of Agra and Taj. From a tourist’s point of view, we are proud of the Taj Mahal,” Joshi told media.
Responding to the allegation that Taj was purposely left out from UP Tourism Department’s new booklet featuring prominent tourist spots in the state, Joshi said, “Taj Mahal is already an established tourist spot, so we have focused more on the projects we are taking up within the next one year, especially Kumbh Mela.”