West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today asked the Durga Puja organisers to not furnish information sought by the Income Tax department, as it was a move to "harass" them.
Ms Banerjee questioned whether the central government was trying to stop Durga Puja, the biggest festival for the people of the state.
"People from all walks of the society participate in Durga Puja festivities. They (Central government) have sent notice to Durga Puja committees seeking report on their expenditure. The puja committees are asked to pay income tax. But, they are non-profit organisations. They do not organise the pujas for making profit. Why would they pay income tax?" she said.
The IT department had sent a notice to the organisers in this regard on December 21 last year and asked them to report to its office on Tuesday.
The notice was served under section 133(6) of the IT Act.
"Are they (Modi government) trying to stop the Durga Puja in West Bengal? Be it Modi or anybody from the BJP, we will not let them lay their hands on any of these committees. I urge all the clubs to unite and avoid going to the Income Tax department," the chief minister added.
Referring to Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, Ms Banerjee said the Centre was after Durga Puja organisers in the state, while the "real fraudsters" were living abroad.
"They are now trying to harass the Dura Puja devotees, but failed to catch the real fraudsters who are roaming freely in foreign countries," she said.
Stating that tax was not collected from famous shrines like the Balaji Temple, Golden Temple and the Kali Temple, Ms Banerjee said Durga pujas are organised through subscriptions or donations from common people and the Centre has no right to slap IT returns on them.
"It is the common man's money. Even we give Rs 10,000 to clubs to hold such pujas for community development purposes. Have you (Centre) provided anything?" she asked.
A few Durga puja organisers, however, went to the Income Tax department today to furnish expenditure details incurred during last year's festivities.