Hooghly: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said food and religion are matters of individual choice and no one can dictate what one should eat, and asserted that the "biggest" duty of governments is to protect the religious freedom and rights of minorities.
"We are against the Dadri incident, we don't support it. Who are you to dictate what should one eat...It's a matter of my choice. If I have the right to eat fish, you have the right to eat meat as well. Whatever you eat, beef or chicken, is your individual choice," Banerjee told a gathering of members of the Muslim community at Furfura Shariff here.
"Many minorities, Christians, tribals consume beef. It is their choice. Who are you to stop them! We are all citizens of this country. The Constitution has given us some basic rights. It's a secular country," she said.
The Chief Minister made an all-out effort to reach out to minorities ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls and said, "The biggest duty is to protect you people...to preserve your religious rights and freedom. I believe that just like I have my own freedom of religion, you people too have your freedom
On Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan facing criticism over their comments on intolerance, she said, "All of a sudden if someone is asked to leave the country or banished from the country, this is not right."
"Sometime Shah Rukh Khan is being asked to leave the country, sometime Aamir is being asked to leave. They are being asked to go to Pakistan. Why will we leave this country, this is our country, too," Banerjee said.
"Just like I have the right to speech, you too have this right. Just like I have the right to visit temple, you too have the right to visit mosque, someone goes to gurdwara, someone to church. Everybody has his own right," she said.
The TMC chief said she was shocked by the cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali's event in Maharashtra following threats from Shiv Sena.
"An artist came to perform in Mumbai. He was stopped from performing. I was shocked. I urged him to come to Bengal and perform," Banerjee said.
Banerjee also said that many people tried to "corner" her just because of her secular credentials.
Predicting that Assembly Election dates may get announced in the next two-three months, she listed out projects and development works her government undertook in the last four-and-a-half years.
"The elections may be announced in the next two-three months' time, we have received a memorandum from Toha Siddique (cleric of Furfura Shariff)...we will look into it," Banerjee said.
She said despite facing funds crunch, her government accorded scholarships and rolled out projects for the development of minority communities.
She also alleged that the Union Minority Affairs department cut down on funds for the development of the minorities in the state.