Controversial cleric Barkati removed from post of Imam

Tipu Sultan Mosque’s controversial Imam Maulana Noor-ur Rehman Barkati, who had threatened ‘jihad’ if India was declared a Hindu Rashtra and refused to remove the red beacon from his vehicle, was sacked from the post by the mosque’s trustee board on Wednesday.

The two-page ‘notice of termination of service’ was issued to Barkati by Arif Ahmed, trustee of the Prince Gholam Mohammad Waqf Estate here.

“Janab Barkati has been handed the termination notice, which is effective from today (Wednesday), for making anti-national statements and indulging in constant controversy. He would be given around seven to ten days to vacate his office in the mosque,” Ahmed said at a press conference here.

The sacking comes two days after a police complaint was lodged against Barkati by the mosque’s trustee board.

The letter pulled up Barkati for not responding to two requests for explaining his conduct and failing to respond to the show cause notice issued to him.

“Subsequent to the show cause notice, you have physically abused the co-trustee and made comments that can incite the people to violence,” the letter said.

It also warned Barkati that “appropriate action” would be taken if he chose to “violate any terms of the letter of termination”.

Ahmed said Barkati was show-caused in February and March.

“We, on behalf of the trustee board, gave Barkati two warnings for his controversial public statements in February this year. He was also show caused in March. We had to take a decision to terminate him today as he did not rectify himself,” Ahmed said.

Barkati, considered close to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is known for his repeated controversial and provocative comments.

Last week he had warned of a ‘jihad’ if India was declared a Hindu Rashtra, and also refused to take off the red beacon from his car defying a central government decision. Barkati had argued that the privilege was granted to the ‘Shahi Imam’ by the British government.

Barkati was forced to take off the red beacon from his vehicle on Saturday, under pressure from the state government.

He had drawn flak for commenting that Muslims would “fight for Pakistan if India became a Hindu state”.

His comments led to a hue and cry, with the BJP and other Sangh Privar outfits dubbing him “anti-national” and senior West Bengal Minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury, regarded as a prominent face of the ruling Trinamool Congress, calling Barkati an RSS agent.

Ahmed also described as “technically incorrect” Barkati’s claims of being a “Shahi Imam”.

“Someone can be called a ‘Shahi Imam’ if he is appointed by a Shah or king. The Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi was appointed by the Mughal dynasty. So technically he can say that his forefathers can be called a Shahi Imam, but that was not the case with Barkati,” he explained.

Asked about Barkati’s successor, Ahmed said nothing has been decided about that.

“We haven’t taken a decision on that yet as he has just been terminated. Choosing an Imam of such a prestigious mosque is a time consuming process. Meanwhile, the muezzin present in the mosque would conduct the prayers,” he added.

Referring to the police complaint lodged against Barkati two days ago for allegedly snatching away the keys of the mosque office, Ahmed hoped the law would take its due course.

“Yes a police complaint has been lodged against him and we are hopeful that the law would take its course. There is no reason to think that he is above the law,” he added.

IANS