In a huge shock to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a large number of Muslim clerics from across the state took to the streets against the state government demanding an increase in their stipend from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 10,000. This demand has been pressed by the All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, a body comprising Muslim clerics and scholars from all across the state of West Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee had courted a controversy in 2011 when she announced that the government will give stipends to Imams. At that time the opposition and particularly the BJP had been vocal in criticism of this move clearly aimed at appeasing the Muslims across the state. It was beyond comprehension why a secular state should pay stipends to the Imams of a particular religion out of the taxpayers’ money. This was an absolute misuse of public funds for securing Muslim votes. Now, the clerics seem to be having a specific issue that when the government has allotted Rs 10,000 to each 28,000 Durga pujo clubs across the state, then why it can’t hike the stipends of the Imams. The protestors have accused chief minister Mamata Banerjee of majority appeasement.
However, this is not the only demand that the Imams are making. They have also demanded that the state government should give aid to at least 10,000 Madrasas across the state. Presently, such aid is being given to 200 Madrasas by the Mamata led government. The rally that has been led by Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, the general secretary of the All Bengal Minority Youth Federation has also demanded that Mamata Banerjee government frees several Waqf properties allegedly occupied by some private and government departments. Not only this they have also insisted that teachers at Madrasas be hired through Madrasa Service Commission. Apart form this, they have demanded that there should be a Muslim Police commissioner in Kolkata and greater representation of the Muslims in police forces.
It seems that all is not well as far as Mamata’s electoral equations are concerned. She was banking heavily on the Muslim vote bank for her political survival but it seems that Muslims in West Bengal are not satisfied with her government. In fact, some of the Imams and scholars who participated in the rally are reported to be close to Mamata Banerjee. But now they have organised a rally against her government and made several demands. This goes on to show that while Mamata Banerjee left no stone unturned and even supported the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants for making electoral gains, she has not been able to woo the Muslim community in the state.
What is even more surprising is the fact the protest rally was held without police permission. This is for the first time that a Muslim rally has been denied in the last seven years in West Bengal. This shows a marked departure as far as the state government is concerned towards Muslim rallies which could cost chief minister Mamata Banerjee dearly when the state goes to elections. It seems that the way she appeased the Muslim voters throughout her tenure, she has raised the expectations of her vote bank to a whole new level. And now she is unable to meet those expectations herself.