While criticising Mayawati, Azam Khan trips on Taj

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Why do you want to demolish the Taj Mahal?  Saleeka Chaahiye Phulon Se Guftgu Karne Ke liye (You need fine etiquette to communicate with the flowers). I never said the Taj Mahal should be demolished; I was quoted out of context by the media. I have my own way of putting my thoughts and ideas before the people. If those in the media covering my programme do not have the ability to grasp the meaning and the message, then it’s not my fault. I was in Muzaffarnagar in connection with the distribution of cheques to girl students under the `Kanya Vidya Dhan’, and `Padhe Beti Badhe Beti’, schemes. I had said that it be any hukumat (regime) – the Mughal emperor Shahjahan or British Indian government, the Samajwadi party or the previous Mayawati government, none have the right to waste public money for personal aggrandizement -towards promoting the profile of political leaders, construction of memorials like Taj Mahal, parks and statues of elephants. The hard earned wealth of people is meant only for the people. Shahjahan committed a grave sin by splurging public money on the highly extravagant projects like the Taj Mahal. This extravaganza led to the rebellion by his son Aurangzeb, who later imprisoned his father Shahjahan.

What was the issue you were driving at?

The issue was neither about Taj Mahal, nor about Shahjahan. The issue was the tyranny of leaders like Mayawati. I wanted to caution people to be aware of Mayawati, so people can draw lesson from her misconduct. We should also draw lesson from Shahjahan and Saddam Hussian who wasted public money on their statues and memorials. All those girls who received the cheques are like my daughters. Our government is spending people’s money for their welfare. I told the girls that Sab Kuch Bannaa Maya Na Banna (You be anything in life, but never be like Mayawati). I am repeatedly saying this so it becomes a popular slogan.

So are you equating Mayawati with Shahjahan and Saddam Hussain?

Mayawati is a modern day Mughal emperor. She spent thousands of crores in erecting statues of those who are strangers to people of Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati will meet the same fate as that of Shahjahan or Saddam Hussain, who had also set up their own statues at the cost of public exchequer. Shahjahan, Saddam Hussain and Mayawati had no right to squander public money on wasteful projects like the Taj, and statues of elephants.  

Is this why you want Taj Mahal to be demolished?

I never said that. For some political forces in India, Babri Masjid was the symbol of Islamic slavery in India, which is why it was demolished. Babri Masjid was a place of worship while Taj Mahal is a graveyard. Any attempt to demolish Taj Mahal, would have met with opposition. Why did they not demolish Taj? I would have supported them.

People say you have tried to revive the bitter memory of demolition of Babri Masjid without any context – what do you have to say?

Is it not a historical fact that Babri Masjid was demolished? The mosque was martyred and this fact can never be erased from the collective memory of the Muslims in India.

Your statement on demolition of Taj Mahal has attracted global attention. It came at a time when the three day Global Partnership Summit for attracting investment in UP was in progress in Agra. Haven’t you put your chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, in an embarrassing situation?

Not at all. No such thing has happened. Moreover, Taj Mahal is not in the manifesto of Samajwadi party.

It has been said you raked up the controversy over Taj, as you want to revive your battle with the center and the Archeological Survey Of India (ASI) for bringing it under the control of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board – what do you have to say on this?

Taj Mahal is nothing more than a graveyard. It has two graves in the basement. A grave whether of earth, brick or Taj, is a grave. Graveyards belong to Allah, so it’s a Waqf property and comes under the Sunni Waqf board. A proper entry of this property should be made in the records of Waqf board. It’s a matter of principal that is why we had taken up the matter with the Center that the Sunni Central Waqf Board should take over the management and control of Taj. Right now it’s a big money spinner for the central government.

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Special Correspondent (Lucknow)

Virendra Nath Bhatt is a post graduate in Economics. Started career as journalist in 1982, by contributing for a couple of Hindi dailies of Lucknow and Bareilly and also Jansatta of Delhi. Joined the English daily `The Pioneer in 1990 and later shifted to National Herald. After one year joined as correspondent for the Onlooker Magazine published from Bombay in 1991. In 1995 again joined The Pioneer in 1995 and worked till 2007. In December joined Indian Express Luck now. In September 2011 joined Tehelka. Bhatt has extensively covered parliament and assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh since 1985 and also the Ramjanma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya and the movement for social justice – the social strife against the implementation of the Mandal commission report in August 1990.

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