The continuing tug-of-war between Hindutva and Muslim groups over conducting ‘puja-arti’ and offering ‘namaz’ inside the Taj Mahal premises is causing concern to tourism circles in Agra.
Industry leaders fear that the dispute could trigger communal a flare-up in Agra, India’s most popular destination.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is in charge of security inside the complex, has come under fire for failing to stop a group of women on Saturday from performing ‘puja’ and ‘arti’ after sprinkling Ganga Jal around the monument.
Photos appeared Saturday on social media, purportedly showing three women entering the Taj Mahal carrying ‘Ganga jal’ and chanting “Om Namah Shivaya”.
Again on Sunday, Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists threatened to conduct ‘puja’ and ‘arti’ inside the Taj Mahal as a protest against the failure of security agencies to stop a Muslim group from offering prayers inside the premises, violating orders of the Supreme Court.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) pasted the Supreme court directive and notification on the gate of the 17th century Taj Mahal last week.
A CISF commandant said an inquiry was being conducted into the reported incident of namaz being offered on Wednesday.
The locals are insisting that they be allowed to go inside for prayers daily.
Muslim leaders blamed the ASI for fomenting communal trouble on false pretexts.
Commenting on the alleged incident, Govind Parashar, the district head of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, said, “We want those, who had violated the Supreme Court orders, to be punished, otherwise, we should be allowed to perform aarti.”
The original order of the Supreme Court allows local Muslims to offer prayers in the afternoon only on Fridays when the monument is closed to public. But the locals want this bar lifted so that they can offer prayers daily.
ASI officials say security agencies have been told to deal firmly with the violators of the order.