Siddique at the rally in Calcutta. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Jan. 16: One of the most influential minority leaders in Bengal today sought to convey to the chief minister that the community would not “accept the lie” that she had “done 99 per cent of what had to be done”.
“Mamata Banerjee ke anurodh korbo, request korbo…. Uuni bar bar ekta kotha bolchhen nischoy apnara janen, shankhaloghu der 99 per cent kaaj kore diyechhi. Eto boro obastob aar mitthye kotha amra mene nebo na, (I will request Mamata Banerjee…. You must be aware that she is saying one thing repeatedly and that is she has done 99 per cent of what had to be done for the minority communities. We will not accept such a lie),” said Peerzada Toha Siddique, the director of Furfura Darbar Sharif in Hooghly.
Siddique was addressing a meeting of madarsa students on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, where he demanded that the government provide 20 per cent reservation for minorities in government jobs, order a CBI investigation into Waqf scams and set up health infrastructure in minority-dominated areas.
This is the first time a leader belonging to the minority community, which formed the backbone of Mamata’s sweeping victory in May 2011, has openly questioned the claims the chief minister has been making at government programmes across the state.
The mazaar (pilgrimage spot) in Hooghly wields considerable influence among Bengali-speaking Muslims, who constitute around 95 per cent of the state’s 30 per cent minority population.
Siddique — respectfully addressed as huzoor by his followers — was a familiar face at most programmes of Mamata while she was the railway minister and in the initial months after she became chief minister.
Today, in a veiled warning, Siddique said: “We managed to uproot the Left Front despite their 34-year run in the government. It will be comparatively easy to uproot the Trinamul government after five years.”
Giasuddin Molla, the minister of state in the minorities affairs department, expressed sadness but did not concur with Siddique. “I am sad to hear that Toha saheb feels this way… But we in the government are confident that the minority department has delivered on cent per cent of its promises,” Molla said.
An official of the minorities department, which comes directly under Mamata, corroborated Siddique’s conclusion that a lot of work was far from finished.
“The chief minister had said that scams relating to Waqf properties would be investigated by the CBI. A list of 16 properties was sent but it was not followed up. The work on the railway line between Dankuni and Furfura is in limbo. Any substantial work on the new Aliah University campus and Haj House in New Town is yet to start,” said the senior official.