Mamata Didi had come to power riding on the slogan of ‘Maa Mati Manush’, but that slogan has vanished. The slogan of ‘Mullah, Madrasa, Mafia’ has taken its place in Bengal.

Union home minister Amit Shah’s recent speech at Serampore in the Hooghly district of West Bengal contained the communal rhetoric that has now become a common feature in almost every election speech by BJP leaders. Shah, who continually addressed Muslims as ‘ghuspethiyo’ (infiltrators) and ‘Mullah’, made allegations of Muslim appeasement against the Trinamool Congress. During his speech. He made two specific claims:

  • At the 18:21 minute mark, Shah said, “…(Mamata Banerjee) grants holidays to Muslims during Ramzan. We do not have a problem with that, give holiday if you want. But we need an answer for why you don’t grant holidays during Durga Puja as well. Why this discrimination?”
  • At the 17:46 minute mark: “Should these Imams and Mullahs get salaries from Bengal’s lockers? The High Court said no so Mamata Banerjee went to Waqf board for the funds.”

Does West Bengal Govt Not Grant Holidays on Durga Puja?

The public holidays 2024 of West Bengal government are divided into two lists. Alt News accessed the said document available on the official website of the finance department. According to List-I (Public Holidays in 2024 under the N. I. Act), there are holidays for Mahalaya on October 2, Maha Saptami on October 10, Maha Astami and Maha Nabami on October 11 and Dasami on October 12.

Moreover, the offices under the Government of West Bengal, except the offices of the Registrar of Assurances, Kolkata and Collector of the Stamp Revenue, Kolkata would also be closed on the days as specified in List II which are not listed under public holidays. List II has additional holidays on Maha Chaturthi on October 7, Maha Panchami on October 8, Maha Shashthi on October 9, and more holidays on October 14 and 15.

In 2023 as well, the Bengal government granted several holidays on account of Durga Puja, as it had done in 2022.

Hence, Amit Shah’s claim that the Bengal government did not grant holidays on Durga Puja is blatantly false.

Do Only Imams Get Salaries from ‘Bengal’s lockers’?

In 2012, the Mamata Banerjee government announced an honorarium for Imams and Muezzins. This decision, at the time, had been struck down by the Calcutta High Court. The monthly allowances have since been routed through the Waqf Board.

Again in September 2020, Banerjee announced an honorarium of ₹1,000 per month to nearly 8,000 Hindu priests in the State. She had reportedly stated that the Wakf Board provides the Imams and the Muezzins with a stipend, but there was no such provision for the Hindu priests. She urged the chief secretary to start the honorarium before Durga Puja that year. Banerjee had said that her government was willing to help representatives of all religions including Christian priests, if they asked for support.

After the announcement, the Opposition parties criticised the move and accused Mamata Banerjee of mixing religion with politics.

In August 2023, a Rs. 500 hike in the monthly allowances of Muslim clerics and Hindu priests was also announced by Mamata Banerjee. Until then, the Imams used to receive a monthly allowance of Rs 2,500, whereas muezzins used to receive a stipend of Rs 1,000 since 2012. After the hike, the Imams now get Rs. 3000 and Musezzins and Hindu priests get Rs. 1500.

The discrepancy in the salaries has also been criticised by Opposition leaders. “Why only 8,000 purohits… There are more than 80,000 in this state. Where is the list of the purohits they are giving this money to? How did they decide on the names? Was there any age or income criteria? The state government is only bribing a select few to show they are being balanced, but that is not the truth,” BJP MP Dilip Ghosh had asked in January 2021. Suvendu Adhikari also questioned this disparity during a public gathering in Kolkata.

Therefore, it is not accurate to say that only ‘Imams and Mullahs’ receive salaries. Hindu priests also receive compensation. However, there is a significant difference in the amount of salary they receive. The stipend for the Hindu priests were also announced eight years after the stipend for the Imams and Muezzins had been announced.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.