A women's football match was stopped by the Mamata Banerjee government after local Muslim religious leaders raised objections over the clothes involved being too short and tight. National-level players Krishna Das, Sujata Kar, Arjuna-awardee Shanti Mullick, former FIFA referee Anamika Sen, and Anita Roy, captain of national handball team, were expected for the match between Kolkata-XI and North Bengal-XI in the Malda district of West Bengal.
Local Trinamool Congress leaders reportedly backed the fatwa issued against the game on March 14. Indian Express reported that Biplab Roy, Block Development Officer (BDO) of Harishchandrapur, Malda, got his orders "from the top."
“When I came to know about the local opposition, I referred the matter to the SP and the DM, and the local police station. The order came from the top that the match should be cancelled, and I acted accordingly in the interest of peace and tranquillity and public order,” he said.
TOI reported that Progressive Youth Club of Chandipur village in Harishchandrapur police station area had organized the football match as a part of its golden jubilee celebrations.
"But last week, some moulavis (Muslim clerics) raised their objection to the women's football match. We had approached the block administration and the sub-divisional officer for help. On March 11, a meeting was also held in the presence of BDO between us and the fundamentalists who were against the match. The next day, many more clerics said a women's match would be against Islam. They also threatened to make a stronger agitation if the match was held. The BDO then ordered to stop the match," said Reja Razi, president of the club.
Local Imam Maqsud Alam said that no fatwa had been issued against the match. "When some people sought my opinion, I just said Islam does not permit us to watch women playing in the field wearing short dresses," he said.
Trinamool Congress MLA Sabitri Mitra reportedly supported the ban.
“We tried to convince the maulvis and all those who had raised objections. I am Muslim myself, and offer namaaz every day. What was wrong in having a women’s football match in the village?” Razi told the Indian Express.
Mullick, 1983 Arjuna Awardee, said, "I can’t imagine such a thing happened in the 21st century. Who can take the risk of fielding women footballers in the face of such threats?”
Sen, former FIFA referee, said, "I do not know in what kind of a world we are living. Such a thing might have happened a hundred years ago, but it is unbelievable that the administration gave in to such fundamentalist elements in this day and age."
The West Bengal government is being slammed over social media.
Imam in West Bengal issues Fatwa against women football.
Women are deprived of sports in the name of religion. @mechirubhat— Anup Vittal (@AnupVittal) March 17, 2015
Fatwa on Women Football Match in West Bengal. Is this happening within INDIA?? Human Rights ??— anoop kumar (@kushwahabt) March 17, 2015
@PMOIndia Sir what about the fatwa against the women's football match in West Bengal by Mullahs? Does that not deserve your attention?— Santosh Shenoy (@santoshenoy) March 17, 2015