In Kolkata Today, Amit Shah May Clear Air on NRC in Bengal as TMC Says There is Panic in State

File photo of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

File photo of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Amit Shah will conduct a rally in West Bengal on Tuesday amid reports of a spate of suicides and shock deaths linked to the possibility of the drive against illegal immigrants being implemented in the state.


Sujit Nath

Kolkata: Many residents of the state of West Bengal are in a state of panic – if some politicians and observers are to be believed – over the issue of the Centre’s counter-infiltration tool National Register of Citizens (NRC). About a dozen people have allegedly either ended their lives or died of shock on learning that, after Assam, the drive against illegal immigrants would be implemented in Bengal.

The issue has become the latest flashpoint between the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is in power at the Centre and is looking to make inroads into this yet-to-be-conquered terrain by the 2021 assembly polls. Against this backdrop, when union home minister and BJP chief Amit Shah visits Kolkata on October 1, he is expected to clarify his party’s position on both the NRC and the related Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016.

Sources say Shah will explain that the decision was taken to regain the lost glory of ‘Bengal’ (state), ‘Bangla’ (language) and ‘Bangaliyana’ (being a Bengali).

During an event scheduled around 3pm on Tuesday at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium, the union minister is expected to tell the people of West Bengal that one should not mix the NRC in Assam with the Centre’s plans for the rest of India. The process conducted was based on the Assam Accord, while in other parts of India, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis, who came here from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before December 31, 2014, will be first granted citizenship under the CAB and only then would NRC be implemented, Shah is likely to say.

The BJP president arrived in Kolkata on Tuesday afternoon. According to sources, Shah will be inaugurating a Durga Puja pandal at Salt Lake’s Bj Block, after which he will address party workers on NRC.

As per the Assam Accord, those who settled in the state after the cutoff date of March 24, 1971, would be stripped of citizenship rights (if they failed to produce convincing documents). On August 31, the final NRC list was released, leaving out nearly 19 lakh residents.

“TMC is misleading the people. The Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis should not be worried as they will be the beneficiaries of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill if they came to India before December 31, 2014. Where is the question of NRC coming first? It was only in Assam because of the accord signed by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhiji,” Joyprakash Majumdar, vice-president of the BJP’s West Bengal unit, told News18.

“Our national president Amit Shahji will explain that after Citizenship Bill, there will be the NRC to detect, delete and deport illegal infiltrators. During Partition, the Muslim population was nearly 13-14% which is now almost 30%. There is an alarming rise in Muslim population over the years in Bengal and this is a matter of suspicion. Therefore, the government wants to identify them. If a Muslim has valid documents then he or she should not be worried.”

His reaction came after observers said the missing names of thousands of Hindu Bengalis from the final NRC in Assam sparked fear among people in Bengal residing mainly in districts bordering Bangladesh. Residents have been queuing up at municipal and panchayat offices to get their address papers, voter ID and Aadhaar cards corrected to avoid any trouble.

Majumdar recalled that West Bengal chief minister and TMC chairperson Mamata Banerjee had demanded action in Parliament on August 4, 2005 against illegal immigration when the state was under Left rule. “Then, she had alleged that the CPI(M) was using infiltrators as vote bank and raised concerns about the changing demography of Bengal in border areas. Now what happened? Why is she opposing it?” he said. “We believe that if we implement NRC after Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, then more than one crore illegal immigrants will be caught, which is nearly 12-13% of Bengal’s vote base. This is why Mamata is now opposing it.”

In January, at a public rally in the state’s Malda district Amit Shah had said that the Modi government had taken a pledge to help Hindu Bengali refugees in West Bengal who came from Bangladesh and Pakistan. “Also, we are committed to stop illegal immigrants. Therefore, this Citizenship Amendment Bill is necessary. This Bill is meant to restore lost dignity of Bengali Hindus,” he said.

In the past few weeks, the Trinamool Congress has vociferously raised the NRC issue and blamed the BJP for the 11 deaths in Bengal.

At Basirhat, brick-kiln worker Kamal Hossain Mondal allegedly committed suicide on September 22 by hanging himself after failing to find some important documents that would prove he and his family members were legal citizens of India.

At Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas district, Momena Bewa allegedly suffered cardiac arrest and died at a nearby hospital after learning about the possibility of NRC. Speaking to News18, TMC leader and Hingalgunj MLA Debesh Mondol said, “Those who are living in fear and committed suicide in recent past have all been residing in my constituency for years. BJP cadres are spreading panic among them. They are responsible for all these deaths.”

Similar reports have been coming in from other parts of Bengal, pushing the state BJP leadership on the back foot.

“We will tell people about how TMC is misleading them. We know that a majority of people in Bengal want these illegal immigrants identified immediately,” Majumdar said.

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