Burden of Expectations Bites Minority; Wake-up Call to Mamata

Zeeshan Javed, Telegraph

Kolkata: The 104-day-old Mamata Banerjee government was today reminded of its promises to the minority community and cautioned against “complacency” and “inaction” at the largest and most significant Id prayer congregation in Bengal.

“The new government has shown remarkable urgency in solving the Singur issue, the Gorkhaland issue and the Jungle Mahal issue. But the same urgency cannot be seen when it comes to sorting out the problems of the Muslim community,” Qari Fazalur Rahman, the imam, said in an Urdu address before conducting the Id prayers that drew a record turnout on Red Road in the city.

About 4 lakh Muslims had offered namaz in a congregation at Red Raod in Kolkata (Photo: M Faiyaz)

“They (the new government) must learn a lesson from what happened to the previous government. The former government promised a lot of things but delivered very little. As a result, they were wiped out. If these people (the new government) take us for granted, it won’t take us much time to show them the door,” said Rahman, who has been leading the namaz at Red Road for the past decade.

Considered the most significant in the state, the congregation on Red Road totalled around 4 lakh today, up from around 3 lakh last year, according to officials of the Calcutta Khilafat Committee.

In order to gauge the prevailing mood of the community, governments in Bengal keenly follow the half-an-hour-long Urdu sermon delivered before the namaz. The religious heads in the past had also been known to use the platform to set the agenda for the community for the coming year.

The late Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was chief minister before 1977, was known to drop in, dressed in kurta-pyjama and sporting a skullcap.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was invited as a special guest for the Id prayers today, may have heard the concluding part as she arrived minutes before Rahman finished his sermon. But Trinamul’s Sultan Ahmed and Javed Khan, who had arrived earlier, heard every word of it.

Rahman made it clear that the community had not changed colour but had merely given Mamata a chance to make good the promises she has made to Muslims. He also listed a specific grievance that community representatives are finding it difficult to meet Mamata — a complaint that suggests she needs to soup up the chief minister’s office to keep pace with her wide array of responsibilities.

The comments reflect the weight of expectations on Mamata and how core constituencies that helped her attain critical mass in the elections are turning restive, although three months are too short a time to deliver on multiple fronts. The Trinamul Congress-Congress combine had won 93 of the 124 Muslim-dominated seats in the Assembly elections.

Last week, the Khilafat committee had invited Mamata to be the chief guest at the Id prayers on Red Road. Many present at today’s congregation thought that it was a good move to put the new government under pressure in front of such a huge gathering.

Rahman said the community expected more than just “lip service”. Referring to the various promises that Mamata has been making, Rahman said they were “mere newspaper announcements”. “Don’t do lip service. We do not want appeasement. Show us some work,” he said.

He added that a lot needed to be done on education, jobs and housing but the response of the new government was not encouraging. “Not a single promise that the new government has made has been fulfilled. From according second language status to Urdu to jobs for Muslim youths, the government does not seem to be serious,” Rahman added.

He referred to the inability of Muslim organisations to get appointments with the chief minister. “Many organisations have been trying to meet the chief minister but she is not giving any appointment. I can only advise her to learn from the mistakes of the previous government,” said Rahman.

At least two organisations — the All India Milli Council, Bengal chapter, and the Milli Itehad Parishad — later said they had not been given appointments by the chief minister’s office.

In a brief speech, Mamata urged the community to be patient. “You celebrate Id after fasting for one month. Similarly, you will get the result after some wait. Just wait and watch.”

Sultan Ahmed, Trinamul MP, said three and a half months were too short a time to show results.

“I can assure you that the ball has started rolling. The results will be there soon for everybody to see,” Ahmed said. “I informed Mamatadi about what was said today. She told me she would have responded in detail but since the date of her byelection has been announced, she could not do so as it would have violated the model code of conduct.”

Officials of the Calcutta Khilafat Committee that organises Id prayers on Red Road said the presence of Mamata had pushed up the turnout.

Source: The Telegraph


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