Mamata meets imams, appeals for peace

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today met the imams of major mosques in the city and sought their support for maintaining peace and communal harmony in the wake of the circulation of a photograph that led to a road blockade here on Tuesday. Banerjee, who earlier in the day said an investigation had been launched to nab those who circulated the photograph, asked the imams (clerics) to appeal to their community for peace during the Friday prayers tomorrow.

"Didi (Banerjee) has informed us that an FIR has been filed and a hunt launched to nab the culprits. They will be punished. In the meantime, she has appealed to all the imams for their support in maintaining peace and law and order," Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque, one of the 18 imams to attend the meeting, told newsmen.

The Chief Minister has appealed to the imams to appeal for peace in their speech at the Friday prayers, Barkati said, adding, "what we now need is communal harmony which is the tradition of Bengal." According to the imam Kari Fazlur Rehman, the Chief Minister had said at the meeting that the newspaper, which initially printed the photograph, has apologised. "But an apology is not enough. Those responsible should be punished under the law," Rehman said, while expressing support for the peace initiatives taken by Banerjee.

The imams present at the meeting thanked Uraban Development Minister Firhad Hakim and Fire Brigade Minister Javed Khan for their initiatives in organising the meeting. Minister for Industry and Parliamentary Affairs Partha Chatterjee, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee and Trinamool Congress leader Iqbal Ahmed also attended the meeting. Earlier, Banerjee said that a state-wide alert had been sounded after her attention was drawn by Ahmed to an altered photograph which was being circulated through MMS and e-mails with an aim at creating communal disturbance.