West Bengal saw large scale violent protests by Muslims against the comments of Prophet Mohammed by Nupur Sharma for the last three days. While police had been largely unable to contain the mobs, CM Mamata Banerjee on Thursday had appealed the agitated Muslims to not protest in the state, but hold protests in Delhi instead. However, some Islamists were not happy with this appeal, and they reminded how TMC won the elections with the help of Muslim votes.
Following the Jumma Namaz on Friday (June 10), an Islamic cleric was seen reminding the West Bengal Chief Minister of the role played by the Muslims in electing her to the Office of the Chief Minister. “I want to tell Mamata Banerjee that you are sitting on the Chief Minister’s seat because of the alms the Muslims,” the cleric was heard as saying.
“The vote of the Muslim community turned out to be a saviour for you else you remember how Suvendu Adhikari had dented your political campaign,” he further emphasised, reminding that Mamata Banerjee had lost the assembly election, and she had to win a byelection later to continue as CM.
“This is not an insult to the Chief Minister but a description of the reality. When everyone has the right to free speech, then, why not this right be extended to the Imam (cleric) of the masjid?” he asked. The development came hours before Islamists blocked highways and railway tracks to protest against the comments of Nupur Sharma on the Prophet Muhammad.
After just a year in office, the West Bengal government under Mamata Banerjee introduced the scheme of honorarium for Muslim clerics and muezzins.
In a notification released on April 19, 2012, by the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, the government announced, “The District Magistrate will also requisition funds for a period of 2(TWO) months, initially, on the basis of the number of imams of the District @ Rs. 2500/- per IMAM per month.”
However, in February 2016, the Imams demanded a 100% hike in their monthly honorarium from ₹2500 to ₹5000. The agitation was led by All Bengal Imam Muezzin Council, which also demanded an increase in the honorarium of muezzins from ₹1000 to ₹2000.
While speaking about their matter, Secretary Maulana Akhter Hossain said, “We had presented a deputation with our demands comprising a revision of honorarium of imams, health facilities for their families, and education for their children.”
8 years after the honorarium scheme for Imams and Muezzins came into force, Mamata Banerjee announced an honorarium for Hindu priests in September 2020. It is important to mention that the number of beneficiaries was just 8000, compared that to 55,000 Imams.
Moreover, their pay was a nominal ₹1000 per month, which was ₹1500 less than that of Imams. The move was seen as an attempt to draw Hindu voters after BJP began making inroads in the State.
Islamists hold the State of West Bengal to ransom
On Thursday (June 9), a mob of frenzied protestors blocked the National Highway connecting Howrah and Kolkata, thereby resulting in traffic woes and public inconvenience. The demonstration comes days after the BJP suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma over alleged ‘blasphemous’ remarks against Prophet Muhammad.
The protestors, dressed in skull caps and lungi, created a ruckus on NH116. They yelled Islamist slogans and burnt tyres. In videos that have now surfaced on social media, dark smoke could be seen engulfing the skies.
Reportedly, the blockade began from Nibra (Kona Expressway-NH16 junction) at around 10:30 am and ended at 9:30 pm. Located at about 12 km from the second Howrah bridge, it extended up to the AJC Bose Road in Kolkata.
Instead of acting against the mob that had brought traffic to a near halt in Howrah, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked them to disrupt public life in other states instead.
She remarked, “Why should we suffer due to communal politics of some with an aim for narrow political gains? Go protest in UP, Gujarat…states where BJP is in power. But they are not in power in Bengal, so don’t do this for publicity in here.”
On Friday (June 10), the Islamists disrupted the vehicular movement in the Park Circus area in Kolkata. Following the Friday prayers (Jumma Namaz), Islamists began gathering on the road and demonstrating against the remarks made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
Similar scenes were seen in Kolkata’s twin city Howrah, where Muslim mobs resorted to violence and vandalism. They burnt down vehicles and police booths during the violent protests.
(This piece is taken with gratitude from OpIndia)