“I am proud to be a Hindu,” said Ms Banerjee, referred to her religious identity for the second time in three days, something unprecedented.
The first time was at Puri on Wednesday just before she went to the Jagannath Temple. She was heckled there by right wing activists, nevertheless. The second mention of her Hindu identity was at her party’s organizational meeting in Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium on Friday. “I am proud of all our religions,” she said.
Dilip Ghosh believes she is under pressure. “She saw the crowds at our Ram Navami rallies and is worried about Hindu votes consolidating against her,” he said. “Muslim population has gone up in this state. Hindus are wondering if West Bengal will turn into West Bangladesh,” he added.
Mamata Banerjee has staunchly refused to be labeled a minority appeaser. Her party is by her side. Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Hasan Imran said, “There is huge propaganda about it on social media. But there is no appeasement. Muslims are getting what they are as Indian citizens.”
Dilip Ghosh is unrelenting. “Her Muslim appeasement is backfiring. That’s why she is being forced to say I am a Hindu because people feel she supports beef eating, cow slaughter, wears a hijab, does namaz, hobnobs with imams. Whatever next?”
A stone’s throw away from the Trinamool party meeting on Friday was a peace rally called by Muslim groups under the umbrella of All India Majlish-e-Shoora. Organisers kept claiming Mamata Banerjee may come till the last moment. She did not.
Imam Noorur Barkati, the Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque and often seen stage space with Mamata Banerjee, said, “She has sent us a message. Because of her party meeting she is unable to come but she is supporting us fully. May be she will still come.”
Positions are clearly being fine-tuned in the rising heat and dust of minority appeasement versus big or small Hindus.