West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday asked committees organising the Durga Puja to not provide their expenditure details to the Income Tax Department, PTI reported. She claimed the department’s move to seek these details was “harassment”.

Banerjee also wondered whether the Centre was trying to “stop” Durga Puja. “People from all walks of society participate in Durga Puja festivities,” she said. “The central government has sent a notice to Durga Puja committees seeking a report on their expenditure. But they are non-profit organisations. They do not organise the pujas for making profit. Why would they pay income tax?”

The Central Board of Direct Taxes had sent a notice to Durga Puja organisers on December 21 and asked their representatives to report to its office.

“Is the Modi government trying to stop Durga Puja in West Bengal?” Banerjee asked. “Be it [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi or anyone from the Bharatiya Janata Party, we will not let them lay hands on these committees. I urge all the clubs to unite and avoid going to the Income Tax Department.”

The chief minister claimed that “real fraudsters” like liquor baron Vijay Mallya and diamond merchant Nirav Modi continue to live abroad while the Centre goes after Durga Puja organisers in West Bengal.

Banerjee said tax was not collected even from famous shrines like the Balaji Temple, Golden Temple and the Kali Temple. She said the money for Durga Puja is collected through public donations. “Have you provided anything?” the chief minister asked the central government.

However, PTI reported that some Durga Puja organisers visited the Income Tax Department in Kolkata on Friday to furnish details of expenditure incurred during last year’s festival. This year, Durga Puja will be celebrated from October 4 to October 8.