Taj Tea or Kofi?
Well, this is actually happening in India.
The Sunni Waqf (Trust) Board in Uttar Pradesh, home to the Taj, wants the national government and the state’s high court to give it ownership and 7 percent of the takings from the more than 20,000 people who visit each day.
Foreigners pay 750 rupees entry to the Taj while Indians pay 20 rupees.
“We stand on a very sound footing,” board chief Hafiz Usman told Reuters, saying (the Mughal emperor) Shahjehan, who built the Taj as a tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, bequeathed it to the trust’s predecessor.
Like other state Sunni waqfs, the Uttar Pradesh body was granted ownership of Sunni graves in the state and also claims the Taj Mahal as a grave under its care. And, it insists, the emperor and his wife were Sunnis.
But some leaders of the state Shia Waqf board say the mausoleum was built under supervision of an Iranian Shia architect and that Shahjehan was in fact a Shia. So the Shia Waqf should own it.
The hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad, allied to the former ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, says the gleaming white structure, flanked by two mosques, is not even Muslim.
“The Taj Mahal was originally a Hindu temple and should, therefore, be handed over to Hindus,” says VHP chief Ashok Singhal. [Reuters]
The Taj Mahal has at different periods been under the rule of Rajputs, Sikhs and the British. They too may have a no less fantastic sounding claim on the Taj. Also, Unilever’s Indian subsidiary holds the rights to the Taj Mahal trademark and may have an interest in protecting its interests.
Internationalists may even counter all this by arguing that such monuments are really world heritage sites, and belong to the entire world and thus to the United Nations, its legal representative.