Calling the Taj Mahal “India’s rare gem”, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said here on Thursday that the government is committed to its conservation.
He was addressing a rally at the Government Inter College grounds here in what was seen as a day-long exercise in damage control. He wore a mask and gloves and swept a parking lot within the Taj complex, spent few minutes inside the mausoleum, laid a foundation stone for a tourist pathway connecting the Taj to the Agra fort, and waved and smiled at Indian and foreign tourists.
The much-publicised visit, the itinerary for which ran two pages, comes days after the party’s leaders and ministers made controversial statements, including a UP tourism booklet that omitted to mention the 17th century monument in its list of development projects in the state. Further, BJP MLA Sangeet Som had questioned Taj Mahal’s place in history and vowed to erase the “blot” of Mughal kings from history books.
Adityanath reiterated his previous remarks that the monument was built “by the blood and sweat” of India’s sons and labourers. “Hum is mein na jaayen, ki Taj kyu bana, kab bana, kaise bana. Mahatwapurn ye hai ki Taj Mahal ka nirmaan Bharat ke mazdooron aur kisaano ke khoon aur pasine se bana hai (We should not delve deeper into the details of why, when and how the Taj Mahal was built. What is important is that it was built by the blood and sweat of India’s farmers and labourers),” he said. Also Read | Local Body polls: Yogi Adityanath to campaign, will become 1st CM to do so
“Bharat ke vaastav ka ek anmol ratna jisne duniya ko diya hai. Aur jisne duniya ke paryatakon ko apni aur akarshit kiya hai.Us se Agra ka vyavasai badhta hai, paryatan badhta hai. Toh uski sangrakshan…ki jimmedari hum sabhko nibhaani padhegi, (It is a unique gem that India has given to the world. And that attracts the world’s tourists. It increases Agra’s trade and tourism. That’s why we all have to share the responsibility for its protection.”
While the CM was inside the Taj, his party’s MLA from North Agra told reporters that the Mughals demolished a temple before building it. “Mughals first demolished the Shiva temple and then built the Taj Mahal. It is a fact,” Jagan Prasad Garg told reporters, in line with earlier comments made by BJP’s Vinay Katiyar.
While Adityanath spent considerable time at a rally later in the day to emphasise the importance of Agra as a city housing five World Heritage Sites — the Taj, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Sikandra and Itimad-ud-Daulah’s tomb — he largely remained quiet within the Taj Complex. Amid chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, he walked the path leading to the Taj Mahal along with state Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi. See photos | Yogi Adityanath visits Taj Mahal, participates in cleanliness drive
Earlier, he cleaned the premises of the western gate parking lot along with BJP workers to promote the Swacchh Bharat Mission and was also shown a presentation by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Criticising those who were objecting to his Agra visit, Adityanath said these were people who divided the society on caste lines. “They had kept the state from development by dividing the people, patronising criminals and indulging in corruption. I feel sorry for their thinking,” he said.