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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 02:31 GMT 03:31 UK
Muslim Taj Mahal claim rejected
Taj Mahal
Millions of people flock to Taj Mahal every year
The Indian government has dismissed claims by a Muslim trust, the Sunni Waqf Board, that it owns the Taj Mahal.

Calling the board's claim baseless, Law Minister H R Bharadwaj said the monument was Indian national property.

The board argued the monument was its property since it holds several Muslim graves, and the board is responsible for all Muslim graves in the country.

The 17th century Taj was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal.

The emperor is also buried in the monument, which is visited by millions every year, next to his queen.

Sizeable income

It has been governed, managed and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) since 1920.

The Waqf Board had claimed that the building was being neglected, a charge the government rejects.

"There is no need for any other body to look after the monument as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is taking care of it quite well," Mr Bharadwaj said.

If the Sunni Waqf Board were to succeed in its bid to become the owner of the monument, it would get 7% of the income from the building by law.

By one estimate, the ASI earns some 190m rupees ($4.36m) from the three million odd tourists who visit the monument every year.

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