Placing the Taj Mahal in the crosshairs of another controversy, BJP MLA Sangeet Som questioned the 17th century architectural marvel’s place in India’s heritage and said history would be rewritten to erase Mughal emperors from it. Som’s comments during a visit to Meerut district yesterday prompted an angry response from All India Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi who asked if the government would tell tourists not to visit the monument.
The BJP stepped into the row with party spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao describing Muslim rule in India as “barbaric and a period of incomparable intolerance” while asserting that its members could hold any opinion they want on specific monuments.
Som, the party’s legislator from Sardhana, also distorted history to say it was built by an emperor who had imprisoned his father and targeted Hindus.
In fact, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was the one imprisoned till the end of his days by his son Aurangzeb.
In comments that came soon after the Yogi Adityanath government reportedly left out the Taj Mahal from an official tourism booklet, Som said, “Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal was removed from the list of places (tourist destinations). What type of history?
“Is this history that the person who built the Taj Mahal imprisoned his father? Do you call it history when the one who built the Taj targeted many Hindus in Uttar Pradesh and Hindustan?”
The legislator went on to say that if such people are renowned in history, he “guarantees” that history will be rewritten.
Addressing a gathering at Sisoli village after inaugurating a statue of 8th century king Anangpal Singh Tomar, Som said invaders of India have been glorified in history.
Referring to ‘kalank katha’, or the black mark of history, he said, “… Whether it is Babar, Akbar or Aurangzeb, the government is working to erase them from history.”
The lives and achievements of the “real great men” of the country like Maharana Pratap and Shivaji would be taught in schools and colleges, Som said.
There were many Hindu kings who do not find mention in history books. The BJP government would make sure their valour and sacrifice is properly respected, Som said.
He also said no one could stop the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and Krishna Mandir in Mathura.
Som’s remarks opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box with Owaisi bringing in Hyderabad House in Delhi, the venue for the Centre hosting foreign dignitaries.
“Even Hyderabad House in Delhi was built by a ‘traitor’… will Modi stop hosting foreign dignitaries?” he asked in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad House was built by Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam, on land offered by the British.
Hitting out at AIMIM leader, Rao said, “Even in present times, Muslim leaders such as Owaisi exhibit the same level of intolerance as Muslim rulers once displayed.”
He added that the party does not have any view on specific monuments and its members can hold whatever opinion they have.
“But as far as the Muslim, 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,” he told PTI in Delhi.
Following the controversy over the tourism booklet, the Uttar Pradesh government had issued a press release stating, “Tourism projects worth Rs 370 crore are proposed, under which schemes worth Rs 156 crore are meant for the Taj Mahal and its surrounding areas in Agra.”
Som is not new to controversy, often making the headlines for his provocative statements and actions on issues such as the Dadri lynching and the Muzaffarnagar riots.