Indian lawmaker Sangeet Som of the ruling BJP party has an alternative narrative for the iconic Taj Mahal which draws millions of people from around the world adding huge revenues to its tourism sector.
The MLA from Sardhana in western Uttar Pradesh called the Taj Mahal a “blot on Indian culture” built by “traitors” while speaking at a gathering in Meerut on Sunday whose videoclips went viral on the social media. The phrase “Taj Mahal” was trending on Twitter on Monday.
The extremist lawmaker said that The Taj Mahal was built by someone who wanted to wipe out Hindus.
“Many people were disappointed when Taj Mahal was removed from Indian history. What history are you talking about? The creator of the Taj Mahal (Mughal emperor Shah Jahan) imprisoned his own father. He wanted to wipe out Hindus from Hindustan,” Som is heard as saying while addressing a crowd in the videos.
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his favorite wife in 1643, and did not imprison his father. He was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb until his death.
“It’s unfortunate if we have such people in our history. I can guarantee that history will be changed,” he added. “Uttar Pradesh government is trying to bring the history back on the right track. UP govt is trying to bring back the history of Lord Ram, Shivaji,” Som said.
Som’s controversial remarks come days after it emerged that Taj Mahal, considered one of the seven wonders of the world, wasn’t mentioned in a Uttar Pradesh tourism booklet and received no fresh funds in the state budget.
Nalin Kohli, a spokesperson for the BJP, distanced the party from Mr Som’s comments, though he stopped short of condemning them, according to BBC.
This is not the first time the firebrand MLA has courted controversy for his provocative statements. He was earlier accused of making inflammatory remarks during the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots (which killed 62 people) but was recently cleared of all charges by a special investigation team. In the run up to the state elections earlier this year, he was also charged with instigating communal hatred after his supporters screened a documentary that allegedly polarized voters, report some local media.
The Taj Mahal is India’s top tourism destination but has received a barrage of negative comments from top BJP leaders, including chief minister Yogi Adityanath – who in June said the ivory-white marble mausoleum didn’t represent “Indian culture”.
Since Modi’s takeover, religious intolerance is continuously rising in India as several Muslims have been killed by Hindu terrorists merely on suspicion of eating beef. Recently, an Indian journalist-turned-activist and staunch critic of Hindutva Gauri Lankesh was assassinated in her house. Her killers are still at large, according to reports.