Senior Samajwadi Party leader and Uttar Pradesh Minority Affairs Minister Azam Khan has triggered another controversy by demanding that the Taj Mahal should be handed over to the Sunni Waqf Board and that the Muslims should be allowed to offer prayers in the masjid inside the monument five times a day.
Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 361 year old moument was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Pollution may have taken its toll on the most iconic and celebrated monument of love; but Taj Mahal continues to generate more than twice the revenue through tourist visits than any other monument in the country. Azam Khan’s statement that "every mausoleum is a waqf , so Taj is also waqf property” has sparked an uproar. The Waqf Board has jurisdiction over the Muslim places of worship and burial grounds. He has also demanded that the income from the Taj should be spent on the welfare of the Muslim community. His statement comes as UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was highlighting Taj Mahal as an attraction of the state at a meeting with some foreign delegates in Agra. Senior members of the Darul Uloom University and other prominent clerics have also backed Khan’s demands urging the government to act at the earliest. The Taj Mahal has been under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) looked after as per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.
The senior clerics have handed over a memorandum to the Chief Minister demanding the masjid inside the monument to be opened for daily prayers. People are permitted to offer prayers inside every Friday with an appointed Imam. The ASI and other senior leaders have slammed Khan’s demand terming it was for ‘cheap publicity’ and an attempt to assert his position as a leader of the Muslim community. The Hindu forces, in turn, have come forward with the Hindu historian Prushottam Nagesh Oak’ theory about the origin of Taj Mahal. According to the prominent historian, the architectural marvel was not Mughal made, but built by the Rajaputra king who ruled India before the Mughals and was originally a palace of Shiva, named Tejo Mahalaya. The UP government has failed to handle the fragile issues of communal hatred before and being an epicenter of communal clashes and riots, the latest controversy is likely to drag the state into even more complications. With an evident liking for controversies, Azam Khan has been in the headlines recently for arranging a 75 feet long cake for Samajwadi party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on his 75th birthday celebration in Rampur.
It’s not due to the shortage of mosques to offer prayers that has compelled such a demand. Inciting communal hatred for the benefit of the party and then fleeing away has always been a favourite thing for the politicians. Taj Mahal is a national treasure belonging to the country and will continue to attract the visitors for years to come. The Waqf Boards has high incomes of crores of Rupees lying abandoned and forgotten and utilizing it properly would alone be sufficient for the welfare and development of the minority Muslims in the country.