Azam Khan in Controversy for Statement over Taj Mahal

Lucknow, Nov 21: Uttar Pradesh Minority Affairs Minister Azam Khan landed in another controversy after he said the world's famous heritage Taj Mahal should be handed over to the Sunni Waqf Board since it was a mausoleum of two Muslims.

The senior Samajwadi Party leader also said that Taj Mahal was a Muslim property and the earnings from the most popular tourist destination should go towards helping poor Muslims.

"The Waqf Board has jurisdiction over Muslim tombs and graves. 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 is under the Waqf Board. But if it is an expensive structure, then it belongs to the government of India," said Khan, who is also the state Waqf minister.

He suggested that the earnings from Taj should be used for the education of Muslims. "The Waqf board can run at least two universities from the income from this Taj Mahal," said Khan on Thursday.

Reacting to the statement, BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain accused 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, did not agree with the opinion given by Khan. He said, "The ASI can do better maintenance. It is not right to make such demands".

However, Lucknow cleric Khalid Rashid Firangimahali had a different view. He said 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 Firangimahali.

According to ASI, Shah Jahan had clearly said Taj Mahal must be looked after by the government.

Dr Syed Jamal Hassan, director of ASI, which looks after the world famous Taj Mahal in Agra, said that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had clearly decreed that the 17th century monument should be looked after by successive governments.

Talking to a TV channel Dr Hassan told that Shahajahan Nama, the biography of Emperor Shah Jahan, clearly mentions this decree by the Mughal ruler.

"After Mughal rule ended, the British rulers looked after the Taj Mahal, and since Independence, the government of India through the ASI is looking after this world famous monument of love.

"ASI has qualified experts to carry out conservation work of this 35-year old monument. It is next to impossible for the Sunni Muslim Central Waqf Board to look after Taj Mahal. ASI had been looking after Taj Mahal since December 22, 1920", said Dr Hassan.

This is not the first time Khan made controversial statements about the iconic monument. 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.

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