Ahead of the upcoming Vidhan Sabha polls in West Bengal, ex-TMC leaders Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee exposed the grim state of Muslim appeasement in the State. On Friday, Adhikari, who is now a BJP leader, addressed a public gathering from the stage of ‘Sanatan Brahman Trust’ in Kolkata.
He pointed out the discrepancies in the honorarium given to Muslim clerics (Imams) and Hindu priests (purohits) in the State. The BJP leader asked, “You tell me why honorarium for Imams is ₹2500 per month while that of Purohits is just 1000 per month? Why is this difference? I am not asking to reduce the honorarium for Imams. Increase their pay if you want (in the whole of West Bengal) But, we (Hindus) should also receive the same amount as them.”
“If you want to receive an honorarium for being an Imam, you do not require any local or permanent residency of the State. It implies that even Rohingyas and Bangladeshis are also eligible to receive the payment. But, for Purohits, permanent residency and Aadhar card is a must. Only 8000 Hindu priests get the honorarium while 60,000 Muslim clerics get benefitted,” Suvendu Adhikari emphasized.
পিসির প্রত্যেকটি আচার-আচরণে স্পষ্ট সাম্প্রদায়িক বৈষম্য। মানুষে মানুষে হিংসা তৈরি করবার পথটি সুগম করেছেন। পিসির সব অঙ্কই ভোটের অঙ্কে মাপা।— BJP Bengal (@BJP4Bengal) February 1, 2021
রাজ্যের মুখ্যমন্ত্রী হয়েই তিনি বিভেদ রাজনীতি শুরু করেছেন। সেই ট্রাডিশন এখনও চলছে। মানব দরদি হয় পিসির ভান। pic.twitter.com/J1b5OPPgE4
He further stated that while all Imams have been receiving their payment, a majority of Purohits are being denied even the meager allowance. The BJP leader alleged that Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders have been siphoning off the honorarium, meant for Hindu priests, under the pretext of being one.
“Those who aren’t even Brahmins have received the grant from the government in the South 24 Parganas district. I have seen that on TV. Their only identity is that they are TMC leaders. They are not associated with the Sanatan Brahman Trust in any way. They are taking your money,” Adhikari concluded.
Former TMC Minister exposes Mamata Banerjee government
Former Forest Minister in the West Bengal Cabinet, Rajib Banerjee, had recently joined the BJP after quitting his Ministerial post and resigning from the party. Banerjee, who shared the stage with Suvendu Adhikari informed, “We have seen that those who aren’t even Brahmins or purohits have received the honorarium. This is a peculiar situation. I am making it clear from this stage of Sanatan Brahman Trust that as long as all Purohits in the State do not get their due share, we will continue our democratic agitation against the government.”
Mamata Banerjee, minority appeasement scheme and the balancing act
After just a year in office, the West Bengal government under Mamata Banerjee introduced the scheme of honorarium for Muslim clerics and muezzins. In a notification released on April 19, 2012, by the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, the government announced, “The District Magistrate will also requisition funds for a period of 2(TWO) months, initially, on the basis of the number of imams of the District @ Rs. 2500/- per IMAM per month.”
However, in February 2016, the Imams demanded a 100% hike in their monthly honorarium from ₹2500 to ₹5000. The agitation was led by All Bengal Imam Muezzin Council, which also demanded an increase in the honorarium of muezzins from ₹1000 to ₹2000. While speaking about their matter, Secretary Maulana Akhter Hossain said, “We had presented a deputation with our demands comprising a revision of honorarium of imams, health facilities for their families, and education for their children.”
8 years after the honorarium scheme for Imams and Muezzins came into force, Mamata Banerjee announced an honorarium for Hindu priests in September last year. It is important to mention that the number of beneficiaries was just 8000, compared that to 55,000 Imams. Moreover, their pay was a nominal ₹1000 per month, which was ₹1500 less than that of Imams. The move was seen as an attempt to draw Hindu voters after BJP began making inroads in the State.