Kolkata: Daring the Centre to dismiss her government, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vowed on Monday to not implement the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), which she said can only be enforced in West Bengal over her body.
Banerjee, who led a mega rally in the heart of the city, alleged that a few people were paid by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to perpetrate violence in the state, even as she blamed some powers from outside West Bengal "acting as friends" of the Muslim community for vandalism and arson.
She also hit out at Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who dubbed the rallies as "unconstitutional and inflammatory act", while urging the chief minister to devote time to "retrieve the grim situation".
The state has seen several incidents of arson and vandalism in the past few days by people protesting against the law with a number railway stations being set ablaze and many trains burnt.
Taking to Twitter, Dhankar said, "I am extremely anguished that CM and Ministers are to spearhead rally against CAA, law of the land. This is unconstitutional. I call upon CM to desist from this unconstitutional and inflammatory act at this juncture and devote to retrieve the grim situation."
The governor had earlier questioned Banerjee's opposition to the amended Act and said "any person holding a constitutional post cannot oppose the law of the land".
Banerjee asked the protesters to knock the doors of the Raj Bhawan to seek Dhankhar’s opinion on the new law. “Go and ask him about this divisive Act. They (BJP) don’t want us to live in peace. They want to divide India. Please don’t allow them to succeed in their plans,” she said.
The TMC supremo, who led the rally from Red Road to Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral house of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in north Kolkata, was joined by thousands of supporters with placards like "No CAA" and "No NRC".
Banerjee, who has been at the forefront in opposing the NRC and the citizenship law, is leading mega rallies crisscrossing the city and neighbouring Howrah in protest against the law for three consecutive days.
"As long as I am alive, I will never implement the citizenship law or NRC in the state. You can very well dismiss my government or put me behind bars but I will never implement this black law. We will continue to protest democratically till this law is scrapped. If they want to implement it in Bengal they will have to do it over my body," she said.
If the BJP leaders think it can "bulldoze" everybody to implement the law, then they are wrong, she said. "No one will be ousted from the state. We believe in coexistence of all religions, caste and creed," Banerjee said as she read out an 'oath' for her party workers at the beginning of the rally near a statue of BR Ambedkar in Red Road.
She urged agitators to not indulge in vandalism and arson, and said it will only undermine the very motive of the protest. "If you indulge in violence, you cause lot of inconvenience to the common people. Those who support your cause gets angry, and you would lose their support," she said.
"I have come to know that there are trouble-makers who have entered Bengal from neighbouring states. They are claiming themselves to be friends of minorities and indulging in violence. These forces are stooges of the BJP, don't fall into their trap," Banerjee said in an apparent reference to Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM with whom she got into a war of words recently.
While warning that stern action will be taken against those who will be involved in violent protests, she further alleged that railway services have been suspended in most parts of the state by the Centre "just because few trains have been set on fire".
Expressing concern over damage caused by protesters at Beldanga (in Murshidabad) and Sankrail railway stations (Howrah), she said, “Please don’t take law into your own hands. We will not tolerate those who will destroy government as well as private property. The administration will not tolerate inconvenience to the general public and they will be punished as per law.”
She further said, “This Act is not only against the minorities, but also the Hindus. I have proof that BJP workers are setting government property on fire to malign the image of the minorities. They want to break my government. They want to impose President’s Rule in Bengal. I challenge them to implement the Act in this state. The citizenship Act is illegal and unconstitutional,” Banerjee said.
Banerjee said the party should take care of the states it rules in Northeast before "lecturing others" on law and order.
"The Centre had asked me whether I need central forces to control the situation. I have told them that I have full faith on my state police. The BJP is busy lecturing others but it should first take care of the law and order in states where they are in power," she said.
Banerjee also urged people of the state to send "lakhs of letters" to President Ram Nath Kovind, opposing the amended Citizenship Act and the NRC and, if needed, use "own blood instead of ink" to write them.
“I would like to tell people belonging to the majority community that this battle is not for the ‘minorities’ alone. All of us have to fight this together. This is a battle of our existence. Go for signature campaigns holding black flags. Organise mass movements against the new Act and I would like to urge all to write lakhs and crores of letter to our President Ram Nath Govind. Write your names with blood (in the letter) and vehemently oppose the Act and NRC. We urge the President not to approve the same.”
The chief minister also condemned the police action on students at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and said it should not have happened.
(With inputs from PTI)