• Monument of love, the Taj Mahal, at heart of political storm

    Ramesh Tiwari
    October 19, 2017
    Monument of love, the Taj Mahal, at heart of political storm

    Lucknow, India (AP) : India’s famed monument of love, the white marble Taj Mahal, is finding itself at the heart of a political storm, with some members of the country’s ruling Hindu right-wing party claiming that the mausoleum built by a Muslim emperor does not reflect Indian culture.

    The most recent attack came this week when Sangeet Som, a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party, called the 17th century monument “a blot on Indian culture” that was built by “traitors.” But Som wasn’t the first to attack the mausoleum that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built in the northern city of Agra in memory of his favorite wife.

    Last month, Yogi Adityanath, the controversial head monk of a famed Hindu temple who is now the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh state, where the Taj Mahal is located, said foreign dignitaries visiting his state should be gifted a copy of the Hindu religious book “Bhagvad Gita” instead of replicas of the Taj Mahal.

    This isn’t the first time that India’s Islamic past has come under attack by members of the BJP or smaller Hindu groups. The federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has also been accused of attempting to rewrite history textbooks, especially where India’s past Muslim medieval rulers are concerned.

    In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the state government even deleted the profile of the Taj Mahal from its official tourism booklet published earlier this month. The brochure listed Hindu pilgrimage destinations such as Gorakhnath Temple in Gorakhpur, which Adityanath heads, and also included plans for new attractions such as a tour of locations related to the Hindu mythological text Ramayana.

    Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built between 1632 and 1654 for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after her death. He also planned on being buried next to her, and the complex houses their graves and a mosque, as well as several other graves of lesser Mogul royalty.

    The stunning monument is India’s biggest tourist draw, with about 3 million visiting every year. The tourism business it drums up keeps some 200,000 people employed, and Agra’s economy moving. Som, the lawmaker who called the Taj Mahal a “blot” on Monday, went on to address criticism that the government had kept the iconic monument out of its tourism brochure.

    “Taj Mahal should have no place in Indian history, as it was built by traitors,” he said in the rabble-rousing style he’s known for at a rally in Meerut, a city 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the Uttar Pradesh state capital, Lucknow.

    “Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to wipe out Hindus. If these people are part of our history, then it is very sad and we will change this history,” Som said. Som, who was inaugurating a statue of the eighth century Hindu king Anangpal Singh Tomar, went on to add, incorrectly, that Shah Jahan had killed his own father. In fact, it was Shah Jahan who was imprisoned and killed by his son Aurangzeb.

    Som’s comments drew angry condemnation from Muslim leader and federal lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, who asked if the government would urge tourists not to visit the Taj Mahal and other monuments built by India’s former Muslim rulers.

    Every year on India’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Modi hoists the Indian flag from the ramparts of the imposing Red Fort in New Delhi. The red sandstone fort and palace was also built by Shah Jahan, in 1639.

    Oct. 2017

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      2017 in review -Top stories

      January 1 : New year nightclub attack leaves 39 dead in Istanbul
      January 20 : Republican billionaire Donald Trump sworn in as 45th US president
      January 23 : Syria peace talks begin in Kazakh capital Astana
      March 29 :United Kingdom officially launches the Brexit process
      April 4 :Syria launches chemical attack killing 90 people
      April 6 : US cruise missiles destroy Syrian air base
      April 9 : Bombings at two churches in Egypt kill dozens
      April 16 : Refugee death toll passes 1,000 in Mediterranean
      April 16 :Turkey says YES to presidential system
      May 6 :Emmanuel Macron elected French president defeating Marine Le Pen
      May 19 :Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wins re-election
      May 22 : Terrorist attack kills 22 at Manchester concert
      June 5 : Gulf nations severe ties with Qatar
      June 7 :Suicide bombers attack Iranian parliament killing 13 people
      June 14 :London fire kills 71 in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower
      July 4 :North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s missile ambitions
      July 28 : Pakistan’s top court disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office
      August 5 :US withdraws from Paris climate change pact
      August 17 :Storms cause record damage in Caribbean and southern United States
      August 25 :Muslim Rohingya start fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar
      September 15 : NASA’s 13-year Saturn mission ends
      September 20 : Earthquake kills more than 200 in Mexico
      September 24 : Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wins fourth term
      September 26 : Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving
      October 1 : Gunman opens fire on Las Vegas music festival killing 59 people
      October 14 : Massive bombing in Somalia’s capital Modadishu kill more than 500 people
      October 24 : China confirms the elevation of President Xi Jinping to the same status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, by enshrining ‘Xi Jinping thought’ in the party’s constitution at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
      October 27 : Catalonia declares independence from Spain
      November 4 : S audi Arabia detains 11 princes, four ministers and ten former ministers in a corruption probe
      November 12 : Iran-Iraq magnitude 7.3 earthquake kills more than 500
      November 15 : Argentine navy submarine disappears with 44 crew on board
      November 21 : Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years in power. His former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa will become president.
      November 22 : Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic convicted of genocide in Srebrenica during the 1990s Bosnian War
      November 24 : Gunmen kill hundreds at Sinai mosque in Egypt
      December 4 : Houthi militants assassinate Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
      December 5 : Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics for state-sponsored doping
      December 6 : US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
      December 17 : Price of one bitcoin reaches a new high of $19,783.06 dollars
      December 21 : Yemen’s cholera outbreak
      December 22 : Syria peace talks in Astana (compiled)

      Top ten most visited cities

      Between January and August 2017, destinations worldwide welcomed 901 million international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors), 56 million more than in the same period of 2016 .The top ten most visited cities are:
      CityVisitors
      HONG KONG26.6 million
      BANGKOK 21.2 million
      LONDON19.2 million
      SINGAPORE16.6 million
      MACAU15.4 million
      DUBAI14.9 million
      PARIS14.4 million
      NEW YORK12.7 million
      SHENZHEN12.6 million
      KUALA LUMPUR12.3 million

      Source: Euromonitor International

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