Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists tried to vandalise the west entrance to the Taj Mahal and allegedly removed part of a turnstile gate that was being installed by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), claiming that it blocked the path to a 400-year-old temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
A video shows VHP activists with hammers and iron rods trying to vandalise the western entrance of the Taj Mahal on Sunday, The Indian Expressreported.
"They removed the gate and threw it some around 50 metres from there. Soon the Taj safety police team reached there and stopped them from vandalising more property," Taj Safety circle officer (CO) Prabhat Kumar told the newspaper.
The protest by the VHP created panic among tourists who were seen leaving the area, The Times of Indiareported.
An ASI official told TOI that an alternate route to the temple, 350 meters away from the western gate, has already been made.
Ravi Dubey, a VHP official, said the gate reportedly blocked access to the Siddheshwar Mahadev at Basai ghat along the western wall of the Taj Mahal.
Dubey told the Hindustan Times, "The temple is 400 years old and has been in existence prior to Taj Mahal. So there is no logic in blocking passage to the temple. But ASI officials did not heed to our requests."
Dubey toldThe Indian Express, "Till around 15 years ago, there used to be satsang at the Saheli ka Burj on the western gate but it was stopped. Dussehra fair was also stopped near Taj Mahal. Earlier people used to celebrate Amla Nawami here inside the Taj Mahal premises near an Amla tree. That tree was also cut down by the ASI."
"There were so many other things people used to do here, but it all ended around 14-15 years ago during the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party rule. We cannot let this happen," he said.
Dubey said the optional route, suggested by the ASI, was a narrow one and people cannot walk properly on it.
A case has been registered against 30 persons following a complaint by Tarun Dutta Sharma, conservation assistant for ASI.
Dubey, Mohit Sharma, Niranjan Pathak, Madan Verma and Gulla have been booked under various sections of Public Property Damage Prevention Act, Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Indian Penal Code.
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