Nusrat Jahan, Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha MP and noted celebrity ― who had previously rejected the radical mindset of Muslims who had objected to her offering prayers in tandem with Hindu rituals ― hit out at BJP on last evening, branding the party that is challenging her party’s rule in West Bengal “poison”. Miffed over the proposed anti-love jihad laws that some of the BJP-ruled states ― like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Assam ― are contemplating bringing in, Nusrat Jahan reminded BJP that “love is personal”.
Nusrat Jahan avoided the issue that while her Jain husband allows her to continue practising Islamic rituals while she voluntarily participates in Hindu rites, most Muslim men force their Hindu wives to convert to Islam.
“This is sad because love and jihad can’t go hand in hand. Love is personal. What I love is personal and no one can have a say in that. The only advice I have for the BJP is that they should understand love is personal and they should learn to love,” said Nusrat Jahan on 21 November.
Nusrat Jahan, who is married into a Jain family, called the proposed legislation an unfortunate intrusion into someone’s private space.
The TMC MP inaugurated a Jagatdhatri Puja Pandal in Kolkata on 21 November, offering obeisance to the Hindu goddess without any inhibitions. Previously, the first-time MP from Muslim-majority Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency was criticised by her original community for wearing vermillion on her head and mangalsutra inside the parliament and for practising customs of a Hindu married woman. Fundamentalist Muslims had then called it an insult to Islam and demanded an apology. Nusrat Jahan, however, never apologised. She held her ground as a secular independent Indian, as to how she had always defined it.
“When I go to a mazār, no one comes following me, no media captures that and no one has any problem. Because I am Nusrat, a Muslim, so it’s normal. It’s only when I am at a Hindu festival, people have a problem. I am a secular person. I am a Bengali Muslim, a Bengali first. In Bengal, we practice the secular love for all and there is nothing wrong.” said Nusrat Jahan.
During the Puja inauguration, she even displayed the politician in her, with her speech replete with diatribes against the BJP. She asked people to be wary of all fundamentalist ideas and urged everyone to stand by her party head and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to protect the state from communal forces.
Interestingly, amidst all the controversies, Nusrat Jahan has received the support of her party, even at the risk of antagonising a large section of Muslim population that constitutes the crucial little more than 28% vote share, a significant deciding factor that has stayed loyal to the TMC so far amidst the steady rise of RSS and BJP in Bengal.
At the same time, political observers believe that Nusrat Jahan is a potent electoral weapon for Mamata Banerjee whose ostensible policy of appeasement is more complex to fight than similar policies of the INC, Samajwadi Party, NCP, DMK, CPI(M), etc, as the TMC leaders are adept at switching to efforts to pacify Hindus the moment their obvious pro-Muslim tilt is pointed out.
In the run up to 2021 assembly election, the TMC has ensured that the party stays within the narrative of Bengali regional identity and ‘secular’ principles in order to counter the BJP, both boxes Nusrat had ticked by referring to her ‘Bengali Muslim’ identity multiple times during the event. “I am the child of all right controversies because I am not wrong”, Nusrat Jahan said.