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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 14:28 GMT
Calcutta Muslims protest at accusations
USIS in Calcutta
The attack on the Calcutta USIS raised security concerns
By the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

A huge rally joined by thousands of Muslim demonstrators paralysed life in Calcutta's central business district on Monday.

Muslim leaders in the state are protesting against Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya's recent comments on Islamic schools, or madrassahs.

Wounded man under police escort
The body of an alleged Muslim gunman

Mr Bhattacharya said many unaffiliated madrassahs in the state had been used by Islamic militants and agents of Pakistan to spread discord in West Bengal.

The Muslim leaders demand an apology from the chief minister for his remarks.

They allege his comments have upset Muslim sentiments in the state.

They say the state government has not bothered to furnish any concrete evidence against any madrassah.

Muslim anxieties

They also promised action against any madrassah harbouring elements spreading terror and disaffection.

But they said that no politician had the right to tar an entire religious educational system which has been in existence for more than 1,500 years.

Security staff washes off USIS bloodstains
Terror attacks put pressure on minorities

But the chief minister is not willing to take back his words.

He told journalists on Monday that he had only talked about unaffiliated madrassas, some of which he insisted were being used for what he described as anti-Indian activities.

He also said that this system of education was not very useful for students who had to compete with those educated in modern schools.

Last week, the chief minister said the state intelligence department had prepared a list of 130 madrassahs not affiliated to the state madrassah board, which were allegedly being used for anti-Indian activities.

His remarks have provoked furious reaction from Muslim groups and religious organisations who have accused him of pandering to the Hindu nationalist government in Delhi.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Man held for housing Calcutta gunmen
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan derides Calcutta attack claim
23 Jan 02 | South Asia
Calcutta suspects rounded up
15 Jan 02 | South Asia
Tense times for India's Muslims
14 Jan 02 | South Asia
India launches new Ayodhya initiative
11 Jan 02 | South Asia
Flashback to Indian partition
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