Calcutta, July 20: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reportedly told representatives of several Muslim organisations today that he valued the interests of common people more than a place of worship that is obstructing development.
A Muslim delegation, which met the chief minister, sought his help to prevent the demolition and relocation of the Jame Mosque near Siddha Bazar at Panskura, about 80 km from the city. It had also organised a rally at Esplanade on Saturday to protest against the relocation.
On July 12, the high court had ruled that the mosque in East Midnapore should be relocated after adequate compensation is paid to enable the widening of National Highway 6, which is part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. The highway is slated to become four-lane between Kolaghat and Kharagpur. A service road with underground drains will be constructed on both sides.
National Highway Authority of India officials had told the court they could not begin construction of the service road because of the mosque.
The delegation today expressed fear that the court order would set a precedent following which more places of worship in the way of infrastructure development would be demolished.
“Legal sanction for demolishing a mosque will send a wrong message,” said Maulana Siddiquallah Chowdhury, the general secretary of West Bengal State Jamait Ulama. He added that the mosque committee would move the division bench of the high court against the ruling of the single-judge bench.
The community representatives will also take up the matter with the Centre. “A delegation will meet Union minister for road transport and highways T.R. Baloo and seek his intervention,” Chowdhury said.
The chief minister apparently expressed helplessness to the delegation saying the highway authority had acquired the land and the issue was out of the state’s hands.
At several other places in the state, development work is being held up by places of worship. At Dum Dum airport, work on a runway is stalled because a mosque is in the way.
Widening of roads at Ballygunge Phari and outside Tolly Club has had to be put off because of a temple and a temple-mazaar combine in the way.
Justice Barin Ghosh had given the highway authority liberty to go ahead with the widening of National Highway 6, even if the mosque authorities refused to accept within a fortnight the compensation offered.