Sharp Criticism for Mamata Banerjee in Muslim Officer’s BookBy ANURADHA SHARMA
KOLKATA — In just over a week since its launch, Musalamander Koroniyo (What Muslims Should Do), a book in written in Bengali by a senior police officer, has attracted national attention and raised new questions about intolerance in West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee is chief minister.
The police raided the College Street office of the book’s Kolkata publisher, Mitra & Ghosh, on Friday, closing it for hours and sparking fresh allegationsof Ms. Banerjee’s “autocratic style of functioning.”
The book, a mere 102 pages, written in a straightforward and proscriptive style, is unsparing in its criticism of the policies of Trinamool Congress, Ms. Banarjee’s party, regarding Muslims. It particularly criticizes new promises that Ms. Banerjee has made, including stipends for imams and muezzins, who give the call to prayer, and the state’s plan to recognize 10,000 madrasas , which would allow the religious schools to get some state benefits.
“She knows Muslims are uneducated, unaware and unorganized,” the book says of these policies. “Therefore, they will not be able to understand the trick.”
The author, Nazrul Islam, is a senior Indian Police Service officer, currently serving as the additional director general of the West Bengal police. (Check back with India Ink later today for an interview with Mr. Islam).
The government has “tried to intimidate us in different ways,” Indrani Roy, a director at Mitra & Ghosh, the book’s publisher, said in an interview at her Selimpur home. First, the head of a rival publisher, who publishes books by Ms. Banerjee, called up Ms. Roy’s father, who used to run the business, she said.
“He said that the book has not gone down well with the higher-ups,” she said. On Thursday evening, an officer from the enforcement branch of the police called her father and asked him not to circulate the books. On Friday a team from the enforcement branch raided the College Street shop, she said, forcing it to shut for three hours, “manhandled our staff” and demanded copies of the books. We asked them to give us a seizure list, they offered to buy the books and took with them five copies.”
Ms. Roy said she believes the raid, the first in the publisher’s 80-year history, stems from Ms. Banerjee’s intolerance to criticism. “It is rather unnerving,” she said. “We are actually very scared. Our freedom is at stake and who knows what will happen tomorrow.”
Still, it has been good for business. Already, the book has sold over 450 copies, a high figure for this type of publication.
Here are some translated excerpts from “What Muslims Should Do:”
Chapter: What Needs to Be done?
We need to form one society that will include not just Muslims, but also the low-caste Hindus—those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and others. It needs to be given a name that is easy, concise and acceptable to all, such as Adhijan Samity, Bhupiputra Samity and Mulnibasi Samity.
We will have to take the organization from the state level to the district level, from the district level to the block, and from block level to the village level. Our principal focus will be education. We have to lay stress on proper education at the pre-primary and primary levels. If the government can set up schools in the villages, then it’s fine. Otherwise, we must build private schools in the villages.
Chapter: Why Government Doles for Imams and Muezzins?
The announcement of the leader of the ruling party will deprive the namazis of their right to decide who will be the imam at a particular time. To get the allowance the imam’s name has to be registered in the government records. Those who have seen the activities of the leaders of the ruling party will have no doubt that they will not select the eligible person, but the one who supports them. This supporter can be the most detestable person in the eyes of the namazis, and worse, once his name is registered, whether he remains an imam or not will not depend on the namazis but the leaders of the ruling party through the government employees. Even if he commits a thousand sins and loses the right to be imam, it will not be possible to remove him without the wish of the ruling party leaders. Such a situation is not desirable for devoted Muslim namazis.
For a government, to use the taxpayer’s money to financially help practitioners of a particular religion violates the fundamental right to equality guaranteed by Articles 16, 15 and 14 [of the Indian Constitution].
So, this announcement is bound to overruled. In that case, why did the leader of the ruling party make this announcement? The announcement’s immediate aim is Muslim votes. Muslims respect imams. The aim is to win Muslim votes by supporting imams.
Even if the announcement is overruled, it’s not a loss to them. Rather, it’ll be good. Government funds will not have to be given out. And you can even tell the Muslims: “See, we really wanted to give. The opposition conspired to foil the plans. So identify those who opposed the move.”
The long-term aim of the announcement is even more damaging. Let Muslims get stuck on grants of 2,500 rupees per month. Let them send their children to the madaras. Brahmin-Baidya-Kayasthas [Hindu upper castes] do not want Muslim children to be educated under a modern system and compete for jobs with monthly salaries of 250,000 rupees. They want Muslims to concentrate more on reading namaz, performing roza and sending their children to the madrasas so that they produce more and more imams or madrasa employees, earn 2,000 to 3,000 rupees in salary and live unfed or half-fed. While, the children of the Brahmin-Baidya-Kayasthas become leaders and ministers, join services such as the I.A.S [Indian Administrative Service], I.F.S [Indian Foreign Service], I.P.S. [Indian Police Service] and I.R.S. [Indian Revenue Service] to become cabinet secretary, chief secretary, home secretary, D.G. [director general], C.P. [chief commissioner], D.M. [district magistrate] and S.P. [superintendent of police]. Then someday, we’ll all say: “Madrasas are breeding grounds of terrorists.” And then before the elections, we’ll give recognition to one or two madrasas, instead of opening schools, in the Muslim areas. And we’ll say: “They did not do anything for the Muslims in the past 34 years. We will do.” And after coming to power, without having done anything, within a few days, we will say: “We’ve accomplished 90 percent of the work. That has to be accepted.” Do the Muslims understand all this? That something needs to be done for them? We’ve punctuated our speeches with ‘Khuda-Hafiz-Inshallah’ at all the wrong places, we’ve been to the iftaar parties. We’ve posed for pictures with Haj-bound pilgrims. If all this is not enough, should we need, we have some people on hire; two or three bearded men. We will make them come in their [skull] caps to some function. We have designers to ensure appropriate clothing at such a function. And we will pull a cloth over our heads and say, ‘Khuda-Hafiz-Inshallah’. That will surely do it!
On the other hand, such announcements give [pro-Hindu communal] outfits like R.S.S. [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] a chance to say that the ruling party is appeasing the Muslims. “Hindus second class citizens in Hindustan.” This has to be stopped. Hindus must protest. And this leads to communal riots. As a result, the Brahmin-Baidya-Kayastha leaders gain from both sides.
Chapter: Why Government Recognition for 10,000 Madrasas?
Actually, the one who is making these announcements does not know much. She does not think it is necessary to know. She knows Muslims are uneducated, unaware and unorganized. Therefore, they will not be able to understand the trick. As it is Muslims have a soft corner for the word “madrasa.” The announcement of 10,000 madrasas, with a sprinkling of Khuda-Hafiz-Inshallah is sure to buy off a Muslim and make him a slave.
Therefore, Muslims must become aware and organized. They must say:
- Publish the list of 10,000 madrasas.
- How many of them have been recognised? Which institution has recognized them?
- How many more will be recognized? Who will do that?
- What are the terms of recognition?
- What is the gain from the recognition?
- What is the loss for not being recognized?
- Without doing anything really for Muslims, why is so much song and dance over recognizing 10,000 madrasas?