Court battle looms large over the seat of Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque

While the Trust running the mosque removes him today, the cleric refuses to step down
Report by: 
Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay
Kolkata
17 May 2017

The post of Shahi Imam of the 175-year-old Tipu Sultan mosque in Kolkata which had been at the Centre of many political controversies in recent past is all set to become a subject of court battle.
While today the  Wakf Estate of Prince Gholam Mohammad that runs the mosque removed Maulana Noor- ur-Rahman Barkati, the incumbent Imam from his post , Barkati on the other hand refused to oblige saying he would not obey such decision. The maverick cleric Barkati, who had been close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee but of late seemed to have fallen from grace for his anti-national statements and dogged refusal to remove red beacon from his vehicle, had been holding the post since December, 1988. Both the Trust and the cleric said they would move court against each other. At a press conference today the trust said that they had sent a notice to Barkati terminating his service as Imam and asking him to vacate the office room within 7-10 days.
"What he is doing is not conducive to the post of Imam. He has maligned the post by highly politicising it. He is making anti-national statements and transgressing all limits. He is a paid employee of the Trust and it is not a hereditary post. We sent two notices to him in February asking him to explain his statements and actions but he did not respond .We again sent a show cause notice telling him that if he did not respond to earlier notices it would be construed as his admission of the charges. And since he did not respond to that notice too, today we sent a notice of dismissal to him. He is no longer the Imam of the mosque" said Arif Ahmed, Chairman of the Trust .
However the Imam put up a dogged a resistance. " The existing trust was set up 10-12 years back . They have got no right to remove me as Imam .I have been serving as Imam for the last 30 years. So I am going to stick around and if necessary I will consult legal experts." Barkati said today after he was told about the Trust's decision. He also said that he would speak with chief minister Mamata Banerjee regarding this issue.  However political analysts say the removal had the support of Mamata as her government had highly been embarrassed by the irresponsible comments of the cleric.
Barkati, who had always been in the political limelight and had sided with the Trinamool Congress had joined various meetings and rallies along with Mamata both before she became the chief minister and after.  He was a severe critic of BJP and about a month back he even issued a fatwa that if someone shaved off the  beard and hair of Prime Minister Narendra Modi he would award him Rs 5 lakh. He also gave a fatwa for pelting stones at state BJP president Dilip Ghosh and kicking him out of the state. The recent controversy that led to severe embarrassment of the state government and ultimately his removal was his persistent refusal to remove red beacons from the vehicle he travels.
Here Mamata used a sort of carrot and stick policy. While she sent Firhad Hakim, minister in charge of urban development to Barkati's residence and urged him to remove the beacon and obey law of the land, her cabinet colleague Siddiqulah Chaudhury held a media conference where he called Barkati an RSS agent and enemy of Islam.