Reacting to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s flagging of the issue of “minority bigotry”, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) head Asaduddin Owaisi has asked how the BJP managed to win 18 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.
Owaisi said it was not religious fundamentalism to question why Muslims in West Bengal did not have access to basic human facilities.
Owaisi said, “To say that Bengal’s Muslims rank among the worst in human development indices of any minority is not religious fundamentalism.” He also reminded Banerjee of the huge success BJP had achieved in her State in the Lok Sabha election results in May and asked, “If Didi is worried about some ‘Hyderabadis’, she should explain how the BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal.”
Statement of Mamata that irked Owaisi
Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi has taken exception to Mamata Banerjee’s statement that she had been instructed not to pay attention to such elements (like Owaisi). This is the first time the West bengal chief minister has made a statement on Muslim fundamentalism. Banerjee was speaking in Hindu-dominated Cooch Behar where she made her point without naming Owaisi or his party.
“I see that there are many fundamentalists among minorities. His home is in Hyderabad. You should not pay attention to such people,” Banerjee had said. From the mention of Hyderabad, it was clear who Mamata Banerjee was referring to, provoking a reaction from Owaisi.
Before Mamata of TMC was Buddhadeb of CPM
But Banerjee is not the first chief executive of Bengal from the so-called secular lobby who felt compelled to speak up against Muslim fundamentalism. Her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had spoken against the kind of education that is imparted in madrassas, which, in 2002, had not gone down well with the section of polity where neutrality translates to critiquing the Hindu community alone. However, other than Bhattacharjee’s industrial policy that his communist peers did not endorse, his unease with Islamic fundamentalism is believed to be a reason for his downfall.
As per the 2011 Census, 27.01% of the West Bengal population is Muslim. For any political party or coalition that wishes to keep the BJP out of the State, en masse and en bloc anti-BJP voting by members of the community comes in handy. If the State government, whether of the CPI(M)-led Left Front or of the Trinamool Congress, ignores or criticises the community, the Muslim vote gets divided into different groupings that claim to stand against the Sangh Parivar, which works to the advantage of the BJP.
In the recent past in West Bengal, Kaliachak in Malda and Dhulagarh in Howrah in 2016 and Baduria in 2017 have erupted with communal violence.