People entering Taj Mahal complex for prayers on Fridays will now have to carry identity documents, according to a directive issued by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) following a complaint that non-Indians were also entering the mosque despite it being closed for visitors.
The directive, issued by ASI’s Agra unit superintending archaeologist N.K. Pathak on Thursday, has, however, received criticism from Taj Mahal’s Mosque Committee which has said that no Muslim, irrespective of nationality, can be stopped from offering prayers at the mosque.
The local ASI unit had received a complaint that an Indian Muslim had allegedly brought five Bangladeshi nationals along with him to Taj Mahal’s mosque last Friday, leading to a row over as to who all should be allowed inside the mosque.
The ASI authorities claim that the body’s Director General has ruled that only Indians should be allowed to enter the mosque to offer prayers on Fridays, when the monument is closed for visitors.
The Taj Mahal Mosque Committee President Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, however, criticised the directive and said Muslims should not be discriminated on the basis of nationality.
“The Gazette notification of January 1, 2001 issued by Government of India states that Muslims will be allowed to offer prayers at the Taj mosque on Fridays even though it is closed for visitors. Nowhere does it say that Muslims of other nationality should not be allowed,” he said.
Reacting to Zaidi’s criticism, ASI caretaker at Taj Mahal Syed Muazzar Ali said that the mosque committee has no locus standi on the matter.