Tipu Sultan Mosque's controversial Imam Maulana Noor-ur Rehman Barkati, who threatened 'jihad' and refused to take off the red beacon from his vehicle, was sacked from the post by the mosque's trustees on Wednesday.
However, a defiant Barkati refused to heed the order, saying the trustee board had no right to remove an Imam. The two-page 'Notice of termination of service' was issued to Barkati by Arif Ahmed, trustee of Prince Gholam Mohammad Waqf Estate here.
The sacking comes two days after a police complaint was lodged against Barkati by the trustee board.
"Janab Barkati has been handed the termination notice which is effective from today for making anti-national statements and indulging in constant controversy. He will be given seven to 10 days to vacate his office in the mosque," Ahmed told the media.
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 people to violence," the letter said.
It warned Barkati that "appropriate action" would be taken against him 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. 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 controversial and provocative comments.
After the central government demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, Barkati issued a fatwa against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, offering Rs 25 lakh to anyone "who cuts of Modi's beard, shaves his head and smears him with black ink".
Last week he warned of a 'jihad' if India was declared a Hindu Rashtra and refused to take off the red beacon from his car, defying a central government decision.
He also drew 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". Senior West Bengal Minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury, a prominent face of the ruling Trinamool Congress, called Barkati an RSS agent.Under pressure from the state government, Barkati was forced to take off the beacon from his vehicle on Saturday. Ahmed 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.
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.
"There is no reason to think that he is above the law," he added. Barkati refused to attach any importance to the termination notice.
"The trustee board has no right to remove an Imam because the Imam is chosen by the Muslim community. I continue to be the Imam," he said.
He blamed three Trinamool leaders - Chowdhury, Sultan Ahmed and Nadimul Haque - for the termination letter issued to him.
"Mamata Banerjee is not in town now. Let her come back. I will talk to her. I have her backing," he said. Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Md. Salim welcomed Barkati's removal.
"The sacking only proves that the peaceful people here are not going to tolerate the politics of fatwa, mosque and imam.
"I hope this decision will bring to an end the mixing of religion and politics," said Salim.