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Mamata Banerjee inaugurates Puja pandal amid row over Rs 28 crore grant

“Religion is personal but festivals are for all. Today, people from all over the world come to Bengal to witness this festival,” Banerjee said.

SNS | New Delhi |

Even as a controversy stormed over the state government’s grant to the Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee began this year’s inauguration spree with Sreebhumi Sporting Club on Friday.

The CM, who has been invited by several Durga Puja committees to inaugurate their Puja pandals, wished everyone on the occasion and congratulated who worked hard to create the Sreebhumi Sporting Club pandal.

“Religion is personal but festivals are for all. Today, people from all over the world come to Bengal to witness this festival,” Banerjee said.

Her comment can be seen as a message to members of other communities protesting against the Trinamool Congress government’s decision to grant Rs 28 crore to Puja committees in the state, which roughly comes to Rs 10,000 for each Puja committee.

On Friday, the Calcutta High Court stayed West Bengal government’s decision to pay the grant to each of the 28,000 Durga Puja committees.

According to reports, the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court demanded to know the ground on which “the state is using the exchequer money for Durga Puja celebration” and is there a proper guideline to issue that money.

“Are there checks and balances? Is money only given for Durga Puja? What about other festivals, is money given to other festivals as well?” asked the bench of acting Chief Justice Debasish Kar Gupta and Justice Sampa Sarkar.

The matter will now be heard again on 9 October.

The CM’s decision to give the grant to Puja committees has not gone down well with members of the Muslim community.

On 3 October, Muslim groups led by All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF) took out a massive rally in central Kolkata protesting against the decision and raising slogans against Banerjee for “failing” to deliver on her promises.

According to India Today, Mohammad Kamarujjaman, the general secretary of ABMYF, demanded that government must raise the stipend for Imams before deciding to give grants to organisers of Durga Puja.

“India is a secular country. A government should not sponsor a religious programme,” he was quoted as saying by TOI.

Pirzada Taha Siddiqui, a powerful Kolkata Imam, said that he has no problem if Mamata’s government grants money for Durga Puja “but the government should do that for other communities too.”

He said that while the Left Front government “scared the Muslims” with fear or riots, the Mamata government is scaring them with the BJP card.

Following the inauguration of the Puja pandal on Friday, Mamata also praised the artisans and members of the club located in Lake Town.

“This area has become so beautiful. Credit goes to you. Our new slogan is save green, stay clean,” the TMC supremo said.