Aimed at next year's Panchayat poll
Asim Kumar Mitra
Of late the appeasement of Muslims has become the focal point of discussion in the political arena of West Bengal. This so because very recently Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of the State announced that her government has recognised Urdu as the second official language of the State and Imams of masjids in West Bengal would get an honorarium of Rs 2,500 every month from the government. On both counts, people belonging to the majority community are very much agitated.
During the days of national movement Urdu as a language was the torch-bearer of a separate nation within India. Ultimately when Pakistan was created many Muslim leaders thought that it was victory of inter alia Urdu language. Although it is a fact that Urdu is a language born and brought up in India, but throughout the anti-British national movement period Urdu has been used politically. And for this reason, people, in general, think that recognition of this language in Independent India would mean strengthening the hands of separatist forces. At the same time one should not forget the fact that the Muslims of East Pakistan did not tolerate the supremacy of Urdu language and a new nation was created on the basis of Bengali language. It is really a paradox of history. But then the majority community of India is apprehensive of any such eventuality on the basis of Urdu.
For Mamata, political exigency or for that matter political compulsion is, of course, there. Panchayat election is round the corner. It will take place next year. Hence she has to fortify her armoury with most effective arsenals. She do not want to take any risk of aggravating the Muslim sentiment with doubt factor in their mind regarding her attitude towards Muslims. Rather she wants to keep them in good humour. She believes in the expert analysis of the last year’s Assembly election in West Bengal according to which it was predominantly Muslim votes which made Mamata victorious and making her successful in throwing out the tyrant communist rulers from the seat of power in the State.
After Mamata assumed power, Muslims started their foul political game to immediately grab their share or “pound of flesh” from the administration. Mamata was conscious about her position and at the same time she did not hesitate to retort the Muslims whenever they have gone against the interest of the nation. For example, Mamata stayed back and did not accompany the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Bangladesh trip just to register her protest against the water sharing proposal between India and Bangladesh. In this proposal Indian government was ready to give more water from Teesta (an Indian river) to Bangladeshi river Padma which would have ultimately killed the Farakka Barrage. It was because of Mamata’s stand the whole proposal was dropped. Almost all Bangladeshi Muslims and a large section of Indian Muslims have gone against Mamata Banerjee. But she did not buzz.
At the same time one cannot ignore the belligerent attitude of Muslims in rural Bengal who are indulging in hooliganism, abduction and rape of Hindu girls, damaging idols in religious places, slaughtering cows on open roads. Mamata’s government is totally silent over these incidents and is taking no action against the culprits let alone punish them for such acts. At one time these incidents used to take place mainly in border districts, but now these incidents have escalated to other districts as well. Inaction on the part of government to take active action against the culprits have bolstered up the criminals for indulging in such acts.
Naturally the sane section of the society has become very much agitated against the Chief Minister. Pseudo-secularists and other communists especially the CPI (M) are clandestinely instigating these elements. They think that this will create an unstable situation in the society which ultimately may go in their favour. On the other hand BJP thinks that the situation has already created a favourable political situation for them. They had taken out a procession against the appeasement of Muslim policy of Mamata Banerjee and unusually they have received a very good response. They burnt the effigy of Mamata Banerjee. This is for the first time after she became the Chief Minister of West Bengal that Mamata’s effigy was burnt in public place. It is another question that who is going to be benefitted by this exercise — BJP or CPI (M)? But then, for BJP, they cannot just keep mum or non-responsive to such a situation.
Another interesting development, in this connection, was that the Muslims are vertically divided on the question of distribution of honorarium to the Imams. The Chief Minister in her announcement mentioned that the Wakf Board is entrusted to implement this scheme. Wakf Board officials said only Imams of those masjids that are registered with the Wakf Board would get the honorarium with effect from the Bengali New Year (It starts from April 14).
“At present, there are 12,465 masjids in the State of which only 1,400 are registered. Imams of those would get the honorarium of Rs. 2,500 per month and the others will have to be registered with the board to get the benefit,” said Md. Abdul Gani, chairman, Board of Wakfs, West Bengal.
He said the registration application will be followed by an inquiry and then approval. So the process will take at least another two to three months to be effective. The Imams who are directly under Wakf Board already get an honorarium of Rs. 2,500. This announcement has doubled their remuneration. “There was a little confusion but I had a word with Khalil Ahmed, the special secretary in charge of the minorities department, and he confirmed it,” said Gani.
As it is already mentioned that there are 12,465 masjids in the State of which only 1,400 masjids are registered with the Wakf Board. Then the natural question come forward is where from those 11,065 masjids came? In this connection one should not forget that the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had once said that “in our State more than one thousand masjids have come up in the border areas. They are all illegal masjids and depots of illegal arms accumulated by the terrorists.” He had further said that he had intelligence report about this and he was of the opinion that those illegal masjids should be immediately demolished.
Next day all prominent newspapers of Kolkata, covered the news, but it was soon withdrawn. At that time Buddhadeb got a strong rebuff from his party bosses. Since then those masjids remained as they were. However, Wakf Board did not register them. Hence there was no question of giving honorarium to the Imams of those masjids.
A very big section of Imams are accusing Mamata of dividing the Muslims on the issue of giving an honorarium to a small section of Imams and that too not a single Imam has yet received a single paisa as honorarium.