Updated: December 19, 2015 5:30:03 am
CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee on Friday said food and religion are matters of individual choice and no one can dictate what one should eat, and asserted that the “biggest” duty of a government is to protect the religious freedom and rights of minorities.
Speaking at a gathering of members of the Muslim community at Furfura Sharif in Hooghly, Mamata said: “The Dadri (lynching) incident is highly condemnable. Why would you decide what I will eat or wear? I eat fish, one might eat beef or chicken, it is their choice entirely…”
“I try to maintain religious etiquette when I visit any religious programme. For example, when I go for a Muslim event, I wear this chadar,” she added. Mamata said a Hindu organisation had requested her to ban cow slaughtering during Durga Puja as was the case in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “I told them it was a matter of one’s personal choice, which could not be dictated by anyone else… and that this state is not ruled by the BJP, so it would not be possible here,” she added.
Making an all-out effort to reach out to the minorities ahead of the Assembly polls next year, the chief minister said, “The biggest duty is to protect you people… to preserve your religious rights and freedom. I believe that just like I have my own freedom of religion, you people do too.”
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Referring to Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali Khan’s concert being cancelled in Mumbai and the criticism faced by actors Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan on their remarks regarding intolerance, Mamata said: “I had tweeted and asked him (Ghulam Ali) to perform here. Those who asked Shah Rukh and Aamir to leave for Pakistan should know that Muslims too have sacrificed a lot for the freedom of the country.” The CM also said that many people tried to “corner” her just because of her secular credentials.
Predicting that Assembly election dates may get announced in the next two to three months, Mamata listed out projects and development works her government had undertaken in the last four-and-a-half years. “The elections may be announced in the next two to three months… We have received a memorandum from Taha Siddique (cleric of Furfura Shariff)… We will look into it,” the CM said.
She was referring to the Furfura Sharif pirzada Taha Siddiqui handing over a 25-point demand to her that included reservation in education and job for Muslims, generating income out of the Waqf properties, recognition and proper pay to Madhyamik Shiksha Kendra and Shishu Shiksha Kendra teachers and declaration of three-day holiday on Eid-ul-Fitr and Bakr-Eid.
Earlier, Siddiqui said: “People from all parties come to Furfura Sharif to seek blessings. I will not indulge in appeasing any leaders, including Mamata Banerjee. I have always criticised anything that I had found amiss in the government and will continue to do so. I have no political aspirations and speak only for the interest of the common people.”
“I don’t want to fight elections but if any party challenges me, I can fetch at least 48 seats for its rivals in the next Assembly polls,” he claimed.
Mamata, however, said the state was cash-strapped and it would not be possible to meet all the demands. “I don’t want to lie. I have been given a set of demands. In spite of financial constraints, I will try to do as much as I can within two months as election will be declared by then… If I return to power, I will do as much as I can i9n regard to the remaining works,” she added.
Qari Fazur Rehman, the imam who leads Eid namaz on Red Road in Kolkata, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had failed to keep any of his assurances. “He had said Rs 15 lakh will transferred to everyone’s bank accounts but so far, nothing like that has happened… Now, they ask Muslims to go to Pakistan, as if there they had not contributed to the freedom movement,” he added.
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