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Barkati’s henchmen attack media, community say “enough”

Kolkata: Armed with ammunitions, a group of over 20 men stormed into the premise of Akhbar-e-Mashriq, one of the most read Urdu daily in Bengal, around 9:45 pm on Monday, shouting and abusing the editor for carrying stories has put the controversial imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque, Nurur Rehman Barkati in a tight spot.

The First Information Report (FIR) (case no. 219) filed at Beniapukur police station by Farah Khan, wife of executive editor, Md Nadimul Haque, named some accused, including Khalid Barkati, son of Barkati. The FIR states that the office premise also houses their residence was under siege when these attackers stormed in, threatening them with dire consequences like burning down the office, if the newspaper didn’t stop reporting about Barkati.

Action against attackers

Talking to eNewsroom, Haque said, “This attack is a blatant attack on freedom of press. We have lodged an FIR and identified the assailants. Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has assured of a speedy action to be taken against the attackers.” He added, “I was not present in the office when the attack took place. Just my office staff and family members were there. Needless to say, they were immensely traumatised during the attack. But then people should know that such attacks on media will definitely not be able to silence us. We can’t be witch hunted for reporting facts.”

No more political shielding

The attack on Mashriq’s office has made many openly criticise Barkarti. “This is not just about Mashriq, but on Indian media by a scrupulous religious cleric like Barkati. And it’s unfortunate that it has happened in our state. I have faith on the law of our country and the perpetrators will definitely be punished for their act,” reacted Sultan Ahmed, a prominent Muslim face in Mamta government and an MP. On being asked if the Mamata Banerjee will be taking some action against Barkati, Sultan said, “She has nothing to do with him. He just keeps name dropping to show that he has an amazing term with the CM.” After a pause he added, “He has become a problem for the Muslim community. After all this, he should resign from post of being the imam of Tipu Sultan Masjid.”

Burning of Barkati’s effigy

With back to back controversies, fatwa and the latest attack, seems to have made the people of Muslim community to stand up against their own religious head. Ironically, the man, who made it to the headlines, for burning effigies and giving fatwas, witnessed his own being burnt in Metiabruz area of Kolkata.

“We are tired of this person. Let me be very clear, any person who causes communal disharmony disrespects the law of the country, is definitely not our Imam. We are tired of his antics. His anti-national comment and recent attack on Akhbar-e-Mashriq office made us come on the streets of Kolkata to make this declaration. We do not support the rantings of this imam,” said Kashif Zafar, the general secretary of Garden Reach Peace Movement Society. He also added, “We will also be signing a petition from Muslims across the city and presenting it to the Mutawalli of the Tipu Sultan Masjid, stating that we refuse to accept him as the Imam. And this will eventually lead to his ouster as Islam does have this clause – the common man has the right to refuse to offer their prayers under the immamat or leadership of an imam, if they feel he is not fit for the position.”

In the meanwhile, the trustee members of the masjid have called for a press meet tomorrow. Observers say that with all that has been happening of late, they may take their final call on Barkati.

However, Kolkata Commissioner of Police, Rajiv Sharma, disconnected the call, when he was inquired about, what action they took so far in the case?

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