International desk, October 16: A controversial Indian politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has called the Taj Mahal a “blot on Indian culture” built by “traitors”.
The remarks, which come weeks after the famous mausoleum was excluded from an Uttar Pradesh tourism booklet, have sparked shock and outrage online.
The phrase “Taj Mahal” was trending on Twitter on Monday.
“Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal was removed from the list of [historical places in the UP tourism booklet],” Mr Som said on Sunday.
“Is this history that the person who built the Taj Mahal imprisoned his father?
“Do you call it a history when the one who built the Taj targeted many Hindus in Uttar Pradesh and Hindustan?
“If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history, I guarantee you.”
‘History cannot be erased’
Mr Som has a history of controversial statements. He has previously been charged with stoking tensions during Hindu-Muslim violence in Muzzafarnagar which killed 62 people in 2013.
Nalin Kohli, a spokesperson for the BJP, distanced the party from Mr Som’s comments, though he stopped short of condemning them.
“That is his individual view,” the NDTV news channel quoted Mr Kohli as saying.
“Taj Mahal is an important part of our history. It’s part of incredible India.
“What happened in history cannot be erased but at least it can be well-written history.”
On social media many Indians have leapt to the defence of the iconic monument.
“Anyone who calls the Taj Mahal a ‘blot on Indian culture’ has very clearly lost the plot”, tweeted journalist Vikram Chandra to his 2.8 million Twitter followers.
Ramesh Srivats, who is well-known in India for his wry Twitter observations, said Sangeet Som “must be against marbles, having lost his”.
A few, however, echoed Mr Som’s words in lending their support to his remarks.
The Taj Mahal has occasionally been a contentious symbol for some Hindus.
Hindu nationalist Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said in June the Taj Mahal “did not reflect Indian culture”.