If you live in Kolkata and are planning to travel to your workplace or somewhere else on November 8 you better cancel it because, as things appear, the city roads will be chock-a-bloc with a massive Muslim rally.
Forty Muslim organisations comprising of around 10,000 clerics will be on the city’s roads demanding more honorarium from an already benevolent government in a cash-strapped state.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had already opened the coffers of the Bengal treasury to the imams in April 2012, soon after her coming to power in the state. She had then promised the imams, some 30,000 of them, a monthly stipend of Rs.2,500; the moizzins got Rs.1,000.
The imams and moizzins in West Bengal are unhappy. They want more money. So they’ll be out on the streets demanding that the Chief Minister raise that amount to almost 10 times.
“The amount of Rs.2,500 is too small. It should be raised to at least Rs.20,000 for imams and Rs.10,000 for moizzins,” said Shafique Qasmi, imam, Nakhoda Masjid, according to reports.
To satiate her vote bank, Mamata had not just stopped at the honorarium; she had also assured the imams that they would get homes under a special housing scheme. Now the imams want her to fulfil this promise too.
“Mamata had promised that imams would receive homes under the ‘Nijo Jomi Nijo Griho’ housing scheme but no imam has received anything so far,” said Rafiqul Hassan, president of All Bengal Imam and Moizzin Samity.
The number of imams in the state now stand at much higher than it was in 2012. In between, Mamata’s promise to the imams hit a roadblock when on September 2, 2013, the Calcutta High Court called her stipend announcement unconstitutional.
Her appeasement of this vote bank can be gauged from the fact that the Mamata government, in its first term, declared Urdu as an official language in areas where the Urdu-speaking population is more than 10 per cent.
The Bengal Chief Minister has often been criticised for this overt show of appeasement towards the Muslim community.
Recently, Twitter users slammed her when following the Uri attacks, Mamata Banerjee announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh for the families of two of the soldiers from the state who attained martyrdom in the attack making it the lowest for any of the Uri martyrs.
Twitterati pointed out how Mamata had announced a compensation of Rs.10 lakh for a pilgrim from her state who died in the Hajj incident at Mecca.
— Punam Choudhary (@punamChoudhar12) 22 September 2016
Previously, Mamata has also been accused of ignoring the growing radicalism in the state. Incidents like fatwas against girls playing football, widespread violence by opium cultivators in Malda, and a few Muslim families succeeding in blocking off Durga Puja have happened under her reign. Then there were reports of around 12 riots in the state during the Durga Puja-Muharram period, most notably at Hajinagar.
But despite criticisms, Mamata rode on the 30 per cent Muslim vote-bank in the state to a second term without breaking a sweat. And so it is this vote-bank that Mamata remains committed to.
The November 8 rally is being organised by the ABMYF at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. But striking a different note Syed Mohammed Nurur Rahman Barkati, imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid, said, “I don’t think it is sensible to demand anything because it is only a favour that the government has been doing and that too being so cash-strapped.”