The Muslim clerics or Imam in Kolkata organised a huge rally on Wednesday with a range of demands. The rally was led by the general secretary of the All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman. Now Mamata Banerjee’s favouring of Muslims needs no introduction. However, it seems unlikely that even she would be in a position to meet some of the demands.

Four-Fold Salary Hike

The Imams in the rally demanded that the stipend which is a paid to them should be increased four times. Thus increase from the current Rs 2,500 to Rs 10,000. The demands came shortly after Mamata Banerjee announced that Rs 10,000 would be given to each of the Durga Puja Mandals across the state. Banerjee has made such an announcement for the first time ever.

The Imams claimed that if the government had money to give to Durga Puja Mandals than it should also have money for Muslim clerics. Notably, currently the West Bengal government is spending Rs 105 crores on Imam salaries every year and the amount announced for Hindu festival is only Rs 28 crores.

The Pay Difference

The comparison of salaries paid to Imams and the Temple Priests does not paint a different picture either. A Temple Priest’s pay is a meager sum of Rs 750, which is at par with sweepers and below that of drivers in the designation. As per the law, the majority of the Hindu Temples are governed by the government, and all money goes to the government.

While not all actual numbers are made available, in the year 2002, the Government of Karnataka received 72 Crores from 2,51,000 Temples. However, it returned only 10 Crores to the Temples. Where did the rest of the money go is not difficult to guess? Further startling details can be read from a blog here.

Other Bizzare Demands

The Imams at the rally did not stop just at the salary. They also wanted the government to relent on various other demands. The Clerics also want that Madrasa Service Commission should be taking care of all recruitment at Madrasas. They also claimed that several prominent properties such as Kolkata Raj Bhavan were the property of Wakf board. Thus, they should get rent.

The protesters demanded that the government recognise the 10,000 unaided Madrasas. Thereby making them eligible for all government aids and schemes. The Imams also demanded that Kolkata should get a Muslim Police Commissioner. This was considering that the city has never seen a Muslim person at the post. Interestingly, the rally with a participation from nearly 40,000 people did not have police permission.

Mamata’s Conundrum

Much like Rahul Gandhi who is confused whether to be seen as Shiv Bhakt or to consolidate minority votes by firing party workers who chant Har Har Mahadev; Mamata Banerjee seems to be facing an identity crisis too. While Mamata is certainly no Rahul Gandhi, of-late she has decided to woo the Hindu voter too. This move seems to be backfiring as her core vote bank is now protesting against her.

However, for Mamata Banerjee, the choice would be pretty simple. One can expect her to start appeasing the Muslim voters as 2019 draws near. For rest of the West Bengal population, this rally should be a wake-up call. Ofcourse people notice that counter-demands by Imams came in at the opportune time of announcements favouring others. This could set a very bad precedent. It may end up forcing the government to think twice before doing anything for the rest of the people.

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