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Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Samiti, the history wing of the RSS, reiterates Taj Mahal was a Shiva Temple, says its collecting evidence to prove theory

A day after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited the Taj Mahal and termed the 17th Century marble mausoleum as “India’s gem” and sought to end the row triggered by his party colleagues over the monument, an RSS-affiliate organisation, on Friday, demanded a ban on Friday prayers offered within the premises of the Mughal-era wonder by Muslims.

Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Samiti, the history wing of the BJP’s parent organisation – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – reiterated its already rebuffed theory of the Taj Mahal originally being a Shiva temple called ‘Tejo Mahalaya’, which it says was destroyed by the Mughals. The fringe outfit, like the Hindu Yuva Vahini – an organisation of right-wing radicals founded by UP chief minister Adityanath – demanded that Hindus should be allowed to offer prayers to Lord Shiva within the Taj Mahal premises if Fridayprayers by the Muslims are not banned at the monument.

The demand by the RSS-affiliate organisation comes days after members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini were detained by security personnel at the Taj Mahal after they tried to chant the Shiva Chalisa within the monument’s premises in violation of rules.

In an interview to a leading television news channel, Balmukund Pandey, national organization secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Samiti, said: “Taj is a national heritage… why allow Muslims to use it as a religious site? Permission to perform namaz at the Taj Mahal should be withdrawn.”

Pandey then said that if the ban on Friday prayers wasn’t implemented then authorities concerned must also concede to their demand for allowing Hindus to offer prayers to Lord Shiva at the Taj Mahal.

In what appears to be a concerted effort by Hindu right-wing organisations and radicals to stoke communal tensions over the Taj Mahal, Pandey insisted that: “There is ample evidence that Taj Mahal was a Shiva Temple constructed by a Hindu King” while adding that the RSS-affiliate was in the process of “collecting evidence” to prove its outlandish theory.

What makes the situation more worrisome, albeit predictable, is Pandey’s claim that: “Our organisation is compiling a list of all such monuments which were demolished by the Muslim rulers to construct mausoleums or other buildings.”

It is pertinent to recall that in the days that led up to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 and in the years that followed the shameful act that was executed by BJP-RSS workers, led by leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, claims about Hindu right-wingers preparing such a list – as the one mentioned by Pandey – were made with alarming frequency.

Self-styled BJP-sympathizing historians like PN Oak had floated the absurd theory that the Mughal tomb was built atop a Shiva temple and was originally called Tejo Mahalaya. Oak’s petition to the Supreme Court, in which he had demanded excavation of the Taj Mahal’s foundation to support his theory had been summarily dismissed in 2007.

However, there seems to now be an effort by the BJP and RSS, despite Adityanath’s repeated assertions of the Taj Mahal being a “pride of India”, to revive the ‘Tejo Mahalaya’ theory. To what purpose this is being done – coinciding with the build-up for establishing a Ram Temple in Ayodhya – is not a difficult guess to make for those familiar with the events that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

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