Wide-spread panic was felt at Agra when the Mughal-era iconic monument Taj Mahal was temporarily shut after a phone call with a bomb threat caused panic among people. Thousands of tourists were immediately made to vacate the monument premises after which the Uttar Pradesh police initiated their investigation.

Shiv Ram Yadav, SP, Agra, was quoted by the news agency ANI saying, “We had received information from the control room that a man called them up saying that there are discrepancies in military recruitment and he wasn’t recruited. (He said) A bomb is kept at Taj Mahal which will explode soon. A security check is being done around Taj Mahal.”

The development comes a week after Mumbai Police were on high alert when an abandoned car with explosive materials was found near Reliance Industries’ chairman Mukesh Ambani’s house.

Following the phone call, the Uttar Pradesh police along with CSIF jump into action and initiated a search operation inside the Taj Mahal Premises. Ram Yadav said that the CSIF (The Central Industrial Security Force) was alerted after the police received the phone call. After a thorough search operation, the security forces made the call to resume the entry of tourists a little past 11 AM on Thursday.

Satish Ganesh, Inspector General, Agra was quoted saying that the unknown person called UP 112 (Uttar Pradesh’s emergency contact about a bomb being set up at Taj Mahal premises. According to the standard operating procedure, the bomb squad conducted a thorough search and didn’t come up with any evidence that such an item was placed. “I’d like to assure everyone that 99 percent, it is a hoax call. But we are following the drill,” the Inspector General added.

According to the police officer, the caller’s location was identified as Firozabad and an investigation is underway.

The Mughal-era iconic monument which epitomizes undying love is conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is guarded by the trained personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CSIF).

This was not the first time a wide-spread bomb scare created panic in the city of Agra. In 2017, an unidentified caller put the authorities on high alert with a bomb scare. The Agra police went into a tizzy after the caller claimed there was a bomb placed inside the Taj Mahal premises. Immediately a search operation was initiated and a bomb disposal squad was also brought in.

During the search operation, the lights around the monument were put off and the sniffer dogs were called in. All the possible locations around and inside the monument were checked, but nothing was found by the police and the search operation ended at midnight. The phone call in 2017 came one day after a dozen young men were caught reciting Shiva hymns on the monument’s premises. This caused tension at the iconic monument, which according to the men, was originally a Shiva temple.

The Shah Jahan-built monument was reopened for tourists in September 2020 after it was shut for more than 6 months since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the current footfall is capped at 5,000 visitors, the Taj Mahal has been one of the hottest tourist attractions in India.

During the year 2018-19, the monument was visited by over 7 million visitors and the monument earned a revenue of around Rs. 77.9 crores. The sheer numbers prove that the monument is not only pivotal in persevering the historic significance of the country, but is also a source of income for the government and thus, needs to be protected at all costs.