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Row Over Mamata Banerjee Aide's Remarks, BJP Alleges Appeasement Politics

Firhad Hakim brushed aside the allegations and said he doesn’t pay attention to the BJP (File)

Kolkata:

Days after the public flogging of a couple in West Bengal drew massive criticism, the ruling Trinamool Congress party has waded into a controversy – this time involving a top aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The BJP has accused the Trinamool of appeasement politics after Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim was seen in a video delivering a speech on “spreading Islam”.

Mr Hakim, also the state Transport Minister, was heard saying in Bengali: “People who were not born into Islam are unfortunate. We have to spread Islam among those people who are not followers of Islam. Those who are born in Islam, will reach heaven.”

The video is from an event hosted by the All India Quraner Alo Foundation at a Kolkata auditorium on July 3.

The BJP slammed the Trinamool over Mr Hakim’s remarks and said the party’s penchant for “extreme appeasement politics” in West Bengal is an “open secret.”

“The party’s relentless appeasement politics has paid off, as evident from the successive electoral victories and subsequent post-poll violence, which have emboldened the TMC, making it more audacious and haughty than ever,” said Amit Malviya, the BJP co-in-charge for West Bengal.

He also compared the Bengal flogging incident with “Sharia court punishment”.

Referring to the flogging incident and Mr Hakim’s remarks, he said, “These flagrant incidents portend an ominous future, where the TMC’s policy of appeasement will intensify, heralding a day not far off when West Bengal is wholly converted into a ‘Muslim Rashtra’ under ‘Didi’s Anuprerona (inspiration)’.”

State BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar said Mr Hakim’s remark suggesting non-Muslims to convert was “offensive and divisive”.

“Firhad Hakim’s statement is highly condemnable. Suggesting that those not born as Muslims are born with misfortune and that converting to Islam is the way to please Allah is deeply offensive and divisive. Such remarks undermine the principles of religious freedom and equality,” Mr Majumdar said.

Mr Hakim brushed aside the allegations and said he doesn’t pay attention to the BJP. “I don’t talk about the BJP because they are a party of crooks,” he said.

In the flogging incident last month, a man and a woman were beaten up by a man in Chopra in Uttar Dinajpur district on a street as a crowd watched. The video of the incident went viral and sparked a political slugfest.

CPM and BJP leaders claim the assailant is a local strongman, Tajemul, who has links to the Trinamool and is known to deliver “instant justice” for local disputes.

After the incident, Chopra MLA Hamidul Rahman justified the flogging and said the “couple was engaged in an illicit relationship and polluting the society through their activities”.

The Trinamool, however, issued a notice to the MLA for his remarks and said the accused will not be spared irrespective of his affiliations. The National Human Rights Commission has also sought a detailed report on the incident within a week from the state police chief and the Chief Secretary.