Meerut– BJP leader Sangeet Som, known for his inflammatory speeches and accused of instigating the deadly Muzzafarnagar riots in 2013, has triggered a fresh row by saying the Taj Mahal, one of India’s top tourist destinations, was built by “invaders” and was a “blot” on Indian culture and history.
The controversial BJP lawmaker from Sardhana in Meerut also misquoted history by saying that Shah Jahan, who built the 17th century marble mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, had jailed his father and wanted to wipe out Hindus from the country.
The remarks by the BJP leader at a rally in Meerut on Sunday came days after the Uttar Pradesh government removed the Taj Mahal — one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site — from the list of attractions in its tourism booklet.
“Many people were disappointed that the Taj Mahal was removed from the UP tourism booklet. What history are we talking about? Whose history?
“The creator of the Taj Mahal (Shah Jahan) imprisoned his father. He wanted to wipe out all Hindus from India,” he said.
Som wrongly quoted history saying Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had jailed his father. Shah Jahan never jailed his father Jahangir. In fact, it was Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb — the sixth Mughal king, who dethroned and jailed his father inside the Agra Fort.
The 39-year-old politician said making Mughal “invaders” part of Indian history was “unfortunate” and that it would be corrected.
“It’s unfortunate if we have such people in our history. I can guarantee that history will be changed. The Uttar Pradesh government is trying to bring the history back on the right track. The Uttar Pradesh government is trying to bring back the history of Lord Ram, Shivaji.
“I have spoken against the Mughals, Babar, Akbar, Aurangzeb, about their history. They were foreign invaders. We cannot name our roads and buildings after them. What is their contribution,” Som said, denying that he had insulted the Taj Mahal.
The BJP leader is one of the accused persons charged with instigating riots that left over 60 dead and thousands displaced in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, ahead of the 2014 polls. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission indicted him in 2015 for allegedly making provocative speeches that triggered the riots.
He was also accused of stoking communal tensions in Dadri after the killing of Mohammed Ikhlaq over the beef controversy.
A video clip of Som’s Taj Mahal speech went viral on Monday, triggering sharp reactions even as he repeated the comments on Monday while talking to TV channels.
However, senior BJP leader Nalin Kohli partly disowned Som’s comments. “That is his individual view. The Taj Mahal is an important part of our history. It is part of Incredible India. What happened in history cannot be erased but at least it can be well-written history.”
Several public figures took to Twitter to express their disapproval of Som’s comment. With more than 30,000 netizens commenting on the issue by Monday evening, #tajmahal became one of the most trending hashtags.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, “No more Red Fort speeches on August 15. The PM will address the nation from Nehru Stadium…will fill some hearts with unabashed glee.”
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi wrote: “Even Hyderabad House in Delhi was built by “traitor”, will Modi stop hosting foreign dignitaries?”
Owasi told CNN News18 that the BJP wanted to play “a Jekyll and Hyde game…to deflect from real issues like governance”.
“Som is reflecting the views of his Prime Minister. Modi too referred to 1,200 years of servitude.” (IANS)