Lucknow November 21, 2014
Uttar Pradesh Minority Affairs Minister and Senior
Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan on Thursday triggered a controversy when he
demanded that the iconic Taj Mahal be handed over to the Sunni Waqf Board since
it was a mausoleum of two Muslims.
Mr Khan is also the state Waqf minister; the Waqf Board has jurisdiction over
Muslim tombs and graves.
He added that the earnings from the Taj Mahal, one of the most popular tourist
destinations in the world, should go towards helping poor Muslims.
"Wherever there are tombs, they are under the (jurisdiction of the) Central Waqf
Board. The Taj Mahal has the tombs of two Muslims; one is Shah Jahan and the
other Mumtaz Mahal. If it is in cheap and poor condition, it means it's under
the Waqf Board. But if it's an expensive structure, then it belongs to the
government of India," Mr Khan said.
He also suggested that the income from Taj Mahal "can be used for the education
"The (Waqf) board can run at least two universities from the income from this (Taj
Mahal)," said Mr Khan.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain accused Mr Khan of trying to "create a
misunderstanding" over the issue, saying, "Azam Khan knows that Taj Mahal is a
famous heritage and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) takes care of it. He
is trying to create misunderstanding by making such comment. The Taj Mahal
should not be politicised".
Chaudhary Mateen Ahmad, President of the Delhi Waqf
Board, also seemed to differ with Mr Khan's opinion.
"The ASI can do better maintenance. It is not right
to make such demands," he said.
But when queried about Mr Khan's comment, prominent
Lucknow cleric Khalid Rashid Firangimahali asked
that Muslims be allowed to pray in the mosque within
the premises of the Taj Mahal.
"People (should) be allowed to pray in the mosque
within the Taj premises. And the monument (should)
be maintained with the donations made by the
people," said Mr Firangimahali.
Incidentally, this is not the first time Mr Khan has
made controversial statements about the iconic
structure. Last year, he had said he would have led
a mob to raze the Taj Mahal to the ground since "no
ruler has a right to use public money to build grand
monuments for their lover"