In a damage control exercise after a BJP MLA’s comments on the Taj Mahal sparked outrage, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said the famed monument in Agra was a part of Indian heritage.
Adityanath also told the media that the 17th century marble monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was constructed “by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers”. An official said the Chief Minister will also visit the Taj.
“It does not matter who built it and for what reason. It was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers,” Adityanath said of the Taj, India’s biggest tourist draw.
“Taj Mahal is a part of India’s heritage,” he went on. “Taj Mahal, Red Fort are all part of India’s heritage.”
The statement came after Uttar Pradesh BJP legislator Sangeet Som called the Taj Mahal a blot on Indian culture and said it was built by an emperor who wanted to finish off Hindus.
“We should not focus on Som’s statement,” the Chief Minister said, in the clearest sign that his Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh was distancing itself from the MLA’s controversial remarks.
Adityanath said the Taj was important for the Uttar Pradesh government, specially “from the tourism perspective” and “it is our priority to provide facilities and safety to tourists there”.
Adityanath is scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and other important monuments in Agra on October 26, an official told IANS.
Considered one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj attracts millions of Indian and foreign tourists every year.
Last month, the Uttar Pradesh government had omitted references to the Taj in a booklet published to mark six months of the Adityanath government.
This drew sharp criticism, prompting Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi to say that that Taj Mahal was of great importance to the state government and to the nation.