Taj Mahal visit by Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni causes anger and panic
Published 06/12/2010 | 12:59
A romantic dusk visit to the Taj Mahal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni caused anger and panic as thousands of visitors were hurried from India's most celebrated tourist attraction.
The French first couple had been expected to visit the mausoleum on Sunday but changed their plans to sunset on Saturday instead, presumably the better to capture the world's most famous monument to love.
Their last minute change of plan caused anxiety among Indian security officials who were given just over an hour's warning of the imminent arrival.
According to tour guide Ramesh Kumar, more than 10,000 visitors were inside the Taj Mahal's Mughal garden when officials began harassing them to leave immediately. More than a thousand tourists and visitors who had travelled several hours to see the world heritage monument were denied entry after buying tickets.
"Police asked them to vacate the compound within 30 minutes, causing panic and an almost stampede-like situation at the exit gates. There was chaos in the entire complex with visitors forcibly evacuated," he said.
Kumar Jain, a local news reporter, said officials are usually given three hours' notice to clear the complex for VIP visitors, but claimed they were only given 30 minutes to evacuate for the Sarkozys.
Mr Sarkozy was due to meet Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Sunday night on the eve of official talks on Monday aimed at increasing trade between the two countries and sealing further deals to develop India's civil nuclear power industry.