Days after the Uttar Pradesh government omitted Taj Mahal from a tourism department booklet, BJP MLA Sangeet Som on Sunday questioned the monument’s place in history, distorting historical facts to say that it was built by an emperor who imprisoned his father and targeted Hindus. Som also said that his party’s government at the Centre and state were working to erase the “blot” (kalank katha) of Akbar, Aurangzeb and Babur from history books.
Speaking at an event in Sisauli area of Meerut, Som said: “Bahut logon ko bada dard hua ki Agra ka Taj Mahal aitihasik sthalon se nikaal diya gaya… kaisa itihaas… kahan ka itihaas… kaun sa itihaas… kya woh itihaas… ki Taj Mahal ko banane wale ne apne baap ko qaid kiya tha… kya woh itihaas ki Taj Mahal banane wale ne Uttar Pradesh aur Hindustan se sabhi Hinduon ka sarvanash karne ka kaam kiya tha… aise logon ko agar aaj bhi itihaas mein naam hoga to yeh durbhagya ki baat hai… aur main guarantee ke saath aapse kehta hun ki itihaas badla jayega.”
(“Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal had been removed from the list of historical places… what history… which history… the person who made Taj Mahal imprisoned his father… he targeted the Hindus of Uttar Pradesh and India… if these people still find place in history, then it is very unfortunate… and I guarantee that history will be changed.”)
In fact, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was the one who was imprisoned till the end of his days by his son Aurangzeb. OPINION: The Yogi, Sangeet Som and the missing Taj Mahal
A video of Som’s speech is doing the rounds of social media.
“Pichhle bahut salon mein Hindustan aur Uttar Pradesh mein itihaas bigaadne ka kaam kiya gaya hai… aaj Hindustan aur UP ke sarkar us itihaas ko sahi raaste par le jaane ka kaam kar rahi hai… Bhagwan Ramchandra se le kar, Krishna se le kar, Maharana Pratap ka itihaas, Shivaji Rao ka itihaas, aaj kitabon me laane ka kaam kar rahi hai… aur kalank katha jo kitabon me likhi gai hai… chahe Akbar ho, chahe Aurangzeb ho, ya Babur ho… unke itihaas ko nikalne ka kaam kar rahi hai sarkar,” said Som.
(“In the past few years, there have been attempts to distort history in India and Uttar Pradesh… today, the governments of India and UP are working to bring that history on the correct path… from the history of Ram to Krishna, Maharana Pratap to Shivaji Rao, they are trying to incorporate them in the books… and the blots which are in our books, be it of Akbar, Aurangzeb, Babur… the government is working to remove them from history.”)
Som was not available for comment.
While BJP national spokesperson G V L Rao disagreed with the MLA, he said nobody could gloss over the fact that Islamic rule in the country was a period of extreme exploitation and intolerance. “As a party, we do not have a view on any individual monuments. But, broadly speaking, the period of Islamic rule — around 800 years — was a period of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith. If anyone tries to gloss over these facts, it will be actually distorting history. It is well documented by historians of world stature that Muslim invasion and its rule represented the most oppressive and regressive world over,” he told The Indian Express.
Asked about the impact of such a remark, Rao said: “Taj Mahal’s significance as a heritage monument would not be undermined by any individual’s view against it. But it would be a travesty that we forget and distort our history which is well documented.”
When contacted, state BJP spokesperson Chandra Mohan said: “It is his personal remark. BJP disagrees with his comment. The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is committed to the development of historical heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal, and work has already started in this direction.”
A two-time MLA from Sardhana, Som was earlier named in a case related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, after he allegedly shared a video on Facebook showing two persons being beaten to death by a mob. He was also accused of giving a provocative speech at a mahapanchayat a week before riots broke out in the district.
In 2009, Som contested the Lok Sabha elections from Muzaffarnagar as a Samajwadi Party candidate, but lost. He later joined the BJP in December 2011, a few days before the announcement of assembly elections in the state. He got the BJP ticket from Sardhana, which he won. Soon after the BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Som was provided Z-category security.