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Muslim leaders assess Mamata Banerjee: ‘Promises not fully met, yet minorities behind her’

The government has set up Haj houses and a new campus for Aliah University, sanctioned 400 madrasa hostels, and introduced scholarships for Muslim students.

Written by Arshad Ali | Kolkata |
Updated: March 25, 2016 11:57:39 am
west bengal polls, west bengal elections, west bengal polls, bengal polls, india news, bengal elections, mamata banerjee, mamata TMC, west bengal muslims Mamata with Siddiqullah Chowdhury in November. She has given the AIUDF leader a TMC ticket. File

In the five years as West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee has striven to hold on to one of her strongest support bases — the Muslim voters, who comprise about 28 per cent of the voting population. And most of them are set to stay behind her, according to the assessment of the leaders of a number of Muslim parties and organisations.

Mamata has wooed Muslims to the extent of being accused of appeasement. The government has set up Haj houses and a new campus for Aliah University, sanctioned 400 madrasa hostels, and introduced scholarships for Muslim students. Mamata herself has made peace with all Muslim leaders who could have been a threat to her prospects. For example, she has given a Trinamool ticket Siddiqullah Chowdhury of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and maintained good terms with Pirzada Taha Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly.

“Talking to people in Bengal, I find that they are satisfied with the Mamata government and that she had gained their confidence as one of the strongest opposition forces to communal forces. My reading is that she will get the support of Muslims in Bengal once again,” said Syed Ahmed Bukhari, shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid.

Syed Md Nurur Rahman Barkati, imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid in central Kolkata, described how the government has spent on new buildings of Aliah University and Haj House. “Given the opportunity, she would do a lot more for Muslims here,” he said. He agreed, however, that the salary of madrasa teachers has not yet been regularised.

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The Saradha scam and the Narada News sting operation on top Trinamool leaders, according to prominent Muslim personalities, is unlikely to sway Muslims against Mamata. “It might be true that they had accepted the bribes but it will not affect Muslim votes in her favour,” Barkati said. And Siddiqullah said, “There was no effect of Saradha, and there will be none this time either.”

Md Shafique Qasmi, imam of Nakhoda Masjid, who had earlier contested the government’s claim that it has met 90 per cent of its promises to Muslims, now suggested that the government has done enough. “People can judge the work being done. A lot of work has been done, the details of which can be procured through an RTI. From what I see, a large part of the country is lauding her initiatives here,” he said, calling for stress on education in Murshidabad and Malda.

Pirzada Taha Siddiqui had organised a function in Hooghly last December. Mamata, who had attended it, had admitted the state was short of cash to meet all the promises. Siddiqui said that as against the claims that 99 per cent of the targeted work had been done, he could see only 10 per cent done.

Yet he refused to blame Mamata. “I don’t doubt Mamata’s intentions but the people around her, especially the bureaucrats, don’t carry out her instructions. She should keep track of these promises that she makes at random. Muslims are not getting any home under the Geetanjali scheme,” he said.

Qari Fazlur Rahman, who leads prayers in Kolkata’s largest Eid congregation on Red Road, said Mamata has done 10 per cent of the work that needed to be done and called for more attention to Muslim education.

Among Muslim leaders critical about the government’s performance, many felt Mamata has been successful in “fooling the people”. “A majority of the Muslim population are ignorant and she has convinced them a lot has been done when she has done very little,” said ATM Rafiqul Hassan, president, All Bengal Imam and Moizzin Samity.

Md Nooruddin, President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, too said she had been winning the sympathy of a large section of Muslims though she had done nothing concrete for them. “She has built Haj houses but only the rich can afford Haj. What has she done for the poor?” he said.

Md Qamruzzaman, general secretary, All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, said none of the major issues of Muslims has been solved: “She had promised she would give recognition to 10,000 madrasas but so far she has managed only 235. She had said there would be educational institutions in all areas with a large Muslim population. Not one primary or secondary school has come up.”

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