The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government has denied West Bengal Chief Minister (CM) Mamata Banerjee permission to attend a conference scheduled to be held in Rome next month, claims the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Banerjee is the only Indian to be invited to the programme that is being organised by Macro Impagliazzo, the president of Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic association based in Rome.
Invites for the event, called the World Meeting for Peace, have also been extended to Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Alzhar HE Ahmad al-Tayyib, among others and they are expected to be in attendance. The conference is scheduled on 6 and 7 October 2021.
Sources in the TMC said that the letter from Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the event was not "commensurate in status for participation by the chief minister of a state".
Reacting to the MEA's letter, Banerjee, during a campaign event for the upcoming Bhabanipur bypoll in Kolkata, said that she'd sought permission from the MEA as per procedure, but was denied permission because "the BJP cannot handle Mamata Banerjee".
“At the peace forum there will be Muslim and Christian representation. I could have represented Hindus. Like it or not, I am Hindu. I could have represented India & all religions. For me, humanity trumps all," said Banerjee.
"What the central government did is unfair. I, a Hindu woman, representing India, was invited to participate in a seminar for peace. Every time you stop me. This is out of sheer jealousy," she added.
The invitation letter from Rome, dated 22 July, congratulated Banerjee for her overwhelming victory in the West Bengal elections that concluded in May.
"Allow me to tell you that I feel your commitment and your generous battles and your generous battles in favour of the weakest and most disadvantaged, very close to my sensitivity and to the work of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome and the all world (sic)," said the letter from Macro Impagliazzo.
Banerjee had earlier visited Rome and Vatican City in 2016 during the canonisation of Mother Teresa.
In 2018, Banerjee had alleged that the Union government had denied her permission to attend a World Hindu Conference in Chicago. However, the government denied the same stating that they'd received no such request from the chief minister.