A fatwa issued by a prominent Muslim cleric of Kolkata against Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh has not only evoked no adverse reaction from the state authorities, they have instead launched a witch-hunt against Ghosh.
It started with Ghosh delivering an angry speech against Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at a rally of the party’s youth wing in Jhargram on Sunday. He reportedly said that Banerjee had “lost her mind” and was frustrated after failing to receive any response at her protest rallies (against demonetisation) in Delhi, Lucknow and Patna. Ghosh reportedly said that Delhi police, which was under the Union Home Ministry, could have been instructed to “drag Banerjee by her hair and throw her out of Delhi, but the BJP at the Centre refrained from doing so”.
Ghosh’s speech caused an immediate uproar, with Trinamool leaders terming Ghosh’s remarks “abusive and goonda-like“. Ghosh’s exact comments were: “Mamata Banerjee has lost her mind after the demonetisation drive. That’s why she visited Delhi and Patna. And failing to achieve anything, she is sitting in Nabanna (state secretariat). We had thought that she would ultimately jump in the Ganga… this person (Banerjee) has lost her mind. The state’s people have realised their mistake of bringing in change in West Bengal”.
Trinamool leaders, including education minister Partha Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien lashed out at Ghosh and the BJP, saying that “after failing to fight Banerjee on her stand on demonetisation, the BJP has started issuing dangerous personal threats to the Bengal Chief Minister”.
“The BJP cannot fight Mamata Banerjee on policy, good governance and her principled stand on demonetisation on behalf of millions who are affected,” the TMC said in a statement. “BJP is desperate to silence the voice of the opposition. The Bengal BJP president spews deeply dangerous, threatening, abusive and completely false personal statements against her. A new low in politics,” it said.
But what Ghosh said about Banerjee is matched or bettered by her diatribes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She has a history of abusing not only her political opponents, but even allies when they don’t do her bidding. She mocked and mimicked Manmohan Singh when he was the prime minister (see this YouTube clip). In the runup to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, she called Modi a “donkey” and a “danga-babu”. She went further and said she would drag Modi to jail with a rope tied around his waist if she were in power in Delhi (read this report).
Not only did the Trinamool leaders conveniently forget all the intemperate and condemnable remarks their leader had made against other politicians, including the present and former prime ministers, they also got a prominent Muslim cleric, Maulana Nurur Rahman Barkati, the Shahi Imam of Kolkata’s historic Tipu Sultan masjid to issue a fatwa against Ghosh.
The highly objectionable and patently illegal fatwa issued by the controversial Barkati calls upon Muslims to “stone the badtameez Dilip Ghosh and drive him out of Bengal”. This is what Barkati, with Trinamool MP Idris Ali by his side, told media persons in Kolkata on Monday:
“I have issued a fatwa against that badtameez (ill-mannered) Dilip Ghosh. How can anyone use words like that against a leader of Hindustan and that too, the Chief Minister of Bengal? Mera fatwa hai ki usko pathar marke Bangal se nikalna chahiye (My fatwa is that he should be pelted with stones and thrown out of Bengal)”.
Idris Ali, too, supported the fatwa.
The Trinamool has completely overlooked the fact that a fatwa has no place in India and Barkati’s open incitement to violence through the means of a regressive, medieval and archaic practice has absolutely no legal sanction and amounts to violating the law of the land. “The fatwa issued by the cleric (Barkati) violates several laws and he can be charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is a non-bailable offence, and attracts stiff punishment. Not only Barkati, even the Trinamool MP can be charged with abetment and co-conspiracy,” said prominent criminal lawyer Surinder Singh of Calcutta High Court.
Barkati is no stranger to controversies. In 2011, he led special prayers for terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. In July last year, he again conducted Ghaibana Namaz-e-Janaza (funeral prayers in absentia) for 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon. In an interview to an English daily, before the 2014 polls, Barkati made offensive comments against Hindus. As analysed here, Barkati violated the law by saying then that “We (Muslims) ruled Hindustan for 1,000 years but never made Hindus slaves here, like the British did”. He went on to warn that “if the BJP comes to power and implements the RSS agenda like uniform civil code….the Muslim clergy and scholars will discuss it and even proclaim jihad”. This was a direct warning of waging a war against the country and, hence, violated many provisions of the IPC.
Barkati has openly dabbled in politics. He was a long-time supporter of the Left and when the winds of change started blowing through Bengal in the later part of the last decade, he also changed his political affiliations. He has been urging Banerjee to oppose the BJP and, at Monday’s press meet, said that the Trinamool chief should get her cadres to “thrash RSS cadres and throw them out of West Bengal”. He said that the Muslim community, which was firmly behind Banerjee, would support her in this.
But in the name of minority appeasement, Banerjee has not only turned a blind eye to the various illegal acts of Barkati and his open violation of the Indian Constitution and the law of the land, but also got her police to lodge a frivolous case against Dilip Ghosh. A former president of the local unit of the BJP’s youth wing, one Suman Sahoo, was made to file a complaint against Ghosh. Sahoo, who was expelled for anti-party activities and suspected corruption, said in his complaint that Ghosh had threatened to kill him. “This is purely to harass me. But if Mamata Banerjee thinks she can beat me into submission, like she has done with many spineless Congress leaders by getting her servile police force to lodge false cases against them, she is mistaken,” Ghosh said on Tuesday.
Thus, Banerjee and her men can hardly cry foul against Ghosh. She has shown the way long ago by her shrill abuse of rival politicians in intemperate and often unparliamentary language. And by remaining silent on Barkati’s fatwa, she has once again indulged in the shameless appeasement of a Muslim cleric who has repeatedly violated the law of the land.
By Jaideep Mazumdar
Jaideep Mazumdar is a journalist with many years of experience in The Times Of India, Open, The Outlook, The Hindustan Times, The Pioneer and some other news organizations. He has reported on politics, society and many other subjects from North, East and North East India as well as Nepal and Bangladesh.