Amid Outrage, Mamata Asks ‘Fatwa’ Cleric To Take Off Lal Batti


Kolkata: A day after chief cleric of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque Noor ul Barkati proclaimed he has ‘permission of the British government’ to use the red beacon or lal batti, a man was seen removing the beacon from his vehicle.

The cleric’s bizzare claims had led to at least three complaints being registered against him in police stations in and around Kolkata. CCTV footage showed a man, who seemed familiar with the cleric’s car, removing the red beacon as other men, possibly police in civilian clothes, took photographs of the incident. The red beacon was removed because of public pressure after protests and outrage on social media.

Speaking at an event in the city’s Dharmatala, the cleric said, “I removed the red light after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sent one of her ministers, asking me to remove it, as it was creating unnecessary problems.”

Under pressure from the public, and seeing the outrage on social media, Firhad Hakim, the state Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister, visited the cleric’s home yesterday afternoon, requesting him to remove the red beacon.

Later in the day, Library Minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury’s supporters almost ended up fighting with chief cleric Barkati’s men. The minister slammed cleric Barkati during a meet near Tipu Sultan mosque, when the later drove-up in a vehicle without the red beacon.

A large police force present on spot separated the two groups.

Events took an interesting turn after state Library Minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury, who had opposed chief cleric Barkati’s use of red beacon, was found using it himself. When asked about it, the minister said he’ll remove it the moment Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asks him to do so. He further added that the Centre has encroached into the state’s territory by announcing the lal batti ban without consultation.

Earlier, during a press conference, Mr Chowdhury had said, “He is an Imam but talking like a terrorist, an anti-national and taking law into his own hands.”

“Jihad is a holy word and the Imam is using it to agitate people,” he added.

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned the use of red beacons or lal battis across the country, cleric Barkati had said that no power can make him drop it.

“The Indian government has to make its own law, which it hasn’t. I have a permission of the British government as beacons have been used since British time,” he had said. The Imam has also claimed that he has Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s go-ahead to use the beacon.

Ms Banerjee, however, never uses a beacon in Kolkata. During travels in the state, only police cars in her convoy use the red beacons “for security” purposes. Reasons behind Imam Barkati using red beacon are still not clear.

On Friday, Supporters of the BJP protested in Kolkata demanding the Imam’s immediate arrest, accusing the cleric of making anti-India statements.

Imam Barkati is notorious for announcing fatwas or diktats and bizarre pronouncements. Recently, he put out a fatwa against PM Modi in protest against the decision to ban high value 500 and 1,000 rupee notes suddenly.