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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

What Muslims got from Bengal govt?

By Anwar Alam Khan 

The problem of shifting of two ancient mosques in Bengal has taken a serious turn. The West Bengal High Court has issued orders for the shifting of Siddha Masjid at Panskoda, West Midnapore to some other place for building roads under Golden Quadrangle Project of National Highway. Official orders have been issued for the shifting of 200-year old double storied Dankoni Nasiruddin Shah Jama Masjid for the widening Durgapur national highway no.2.

The court and government orders for the shifting of these historical mosques are bolts from the blue not only for local Muslims but also for the people of the entire state. The contention of Muslims is that once a mosque is built at place, it should not be removed or shifted to another place. There is anger among Muslims against these orders.

Last year a mosques near Dum Dum airport was to be demolished, but fortunately timely intervention by the then civil aviation minister Shah Nawaz Husain averted its demolition. The land of the mosque was to be acquired for the expansion of the airport. The minister suggested some slight changes in the map of expanded airport, thus the mosque was saved from destruction.

Though there is a secular and communist government in West Bengal, but time and again the actions of the state government have hurt the religious sensitivities of Muslims. In 1984, someone filed a case against Quran in the High Court. The case should not have been admitted at all. However, the petition was rejected after forceful arguments of the public prosecutor. In Kolkata now and then the Quran is desecrated by the mischievous elements in the mosques. Besides, Muslims were troubled on the issue of call for prayers (azaan) on the loud speaker. 

Before referring to the editorial published in the 23 July issue of Kolkata’s newspaper Akhbar-e Mashriq, let us examine the policies of the communist government towards Muslims. According to journalist Amanullah Mohammad, the population of Bengal is rapidly increasing, and according to 2001 census the state’s population was above eight crore. The population of religious and linguistic minorities is also increasing fast. According to the census of 1991 the population of Muslims was 23.61 percent of the total population of the state. In the 2001 census the percentage of Muslim population has not been disclosed. Official figures put the Muslim population at 23.61 percent, but actually the population of Muslims is more than 30 percent of the population.

Muslims are not given government jobs. Lakhs of Muslims have registered themselves in employment exchanges but during the past 27 years of communist rule their presence in government jobs has become nominal. In 1972, 4.8 percent Muslims were in government jobs but now it has come down to 0.96 percent. 

Nearly 10 lakh Muslims have registered themselves with employment exchanges in the state. In 1996, 10,385 persons found jobs through employment exchanges, of them only 497 were Muslims. In 1997, 10,971 persons got jobs, of whom only 531 were Muslims. In 1998, 8,251 persons found employment and Muslims consisted only 215 of them. In 1991, 14,465 people got jobs of whom only 717 were Muslims. During 2000 to 2003 the percentage of Muslims getting employment was on an average only 0.70 percent. 

The above statistics show that representation of Muslims in government jobs is nominal in West Bengal. The economic condition of Muslims has worsened and unemployment among Muslims is rapidly increasing. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government has said that it was unable to provide jobs to Muslims and that they should take loans for self-employment and thus to become financially independent. The West Bengal Minorities Financial and Development Corporation has provided loans worth Rs 0.9 crore to minorities under self-employment schemes since 1996.

Minorities are lagging behind in education and because of ignorance and unemployment they indulge themselves in crimes and evils like pick pocketing, theft, dacoity, gambling and consumption of alcohol. Minorities Commission is also turning out to be a white elephant which is costing Rs 28.43 lakh annually. In the Waqf Board there is large scale corruption. If the Waqf properties are managed efficiently and honestly it can, in fact, generate incomes worth crores of rupees which can be used for the higher education of poor Muslim students. Under the present circumstances the future of Muslims appears to be bleak. Instead of looking for help from government they should themselves try to stand on their feet.

In September 2000 while former chief minister Jyoti Basu was addressing a press conference someone asked him what his leftist government did for Muslims since 1977. The then minister for minorities affairs, Mohammad Ameen and home minister Umesh Gupta were also present there. Basu paused for a while and looked at Ameen and said that so far no leader of their party had said to him that something had be done for Muslims also. He said that it was not his mistake and that he wished that someone had come to him and pointed out things to be done for Muslims.
(Translated from Urdu) «

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