Will never allow NRC in West Bengal: CM Mamata Banerjee | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Will never allow NRC in West Bengal: CM Mamata Banerjee

May 07, 2023 01:02 PM IST

On May 1, the BJP released its election manifesto in the southern state saying it will implement the uniform civil code (UCC) and NRC if it retains power. The UCC treats all religious groups and communities equally in terms of the law

The West Bengal government will neither implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) nor let the Centre do it, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday at an administrative meeting for Malda and Murshidabad, the districts where Muslims comprise a majority of the population.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (File Photo)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (File Photo)

“They (Centre) have again sent a letter regarding NRC, although not naming it directly. They raise it before every election. I give my word, we will not enforce it, nor allow anyone else to do it either. Their letter says people who don’t have all the (citizenship) documents will be declared foreigners. Which means they will be sent to detention camps, what we saw in Assam,” said the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief.

She did not mention when and from whom the letter came.

Also Read: Would be happy if BJP’s downfall starts with Karnataka assembly polls: Mamata Banerjee

“Enroll your names in the voter’s list. Update Adhaar cards after 10 years. Casting votes is your right as a citizen. If you do not cast your votes, they may delete your name. There is nothing they cannot do,” Banerjee added.

In Bengal, where TMC and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have launched a full-fledged campaign for the upcoming panchayat polls and the 2024 Lok Sabha contest, political observers saw Banerjee’s statement as an early countermeasure against the saffron camp’s electoral promise in poll-bound Karnataka.

On May 1, the BJP released its election manifesto in the southern state saying it will implement the uniform civil code (UCC) and NRC if it retains power. The UCC treats all religious groups and communities equally in terms of the law.

Bengal TMC leaders said Banerjee started focusing on NRC much before BJP national president JP Nadda released the manifesto.

On April 22, while addressing a few thousand Muslims on the occasion of Eid in Kolkata, Banerjee made similar remarks and even accused the BJP of attempting to alter India’s history and the Constitution.

In Bengal, NRC and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been inseparable issues in all recent elections because of the composition of the population.

The Muslim population stood at 27.01 % during the 2011 census and is projected to have increased to around 30 % now. The community can play a decisive role in as many as 120 out of 294 assembly seats, according to surveys done by political parties.

Among Hindus, who account for 70.54 % of Bengal’s population, CAA– which promises fast-tracked citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015 – is among the list of demands raised by Dalits who entered Bengal as refugees from Bangladesh.

Their support helped BJP win 18 of Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 although the saffron camp has so far not announced a deadline for implementation of the citizenship law in the eastern state.

Banerjee claims that CAA is unconstitutional as it links citizenship to faith in a secular country.

The Bengal BJP had so far maintained silence on implementation of NRC in the state although the issue was raised by TMC before all recent polls.

Also Read: ‘TMC doors shut forever’: Abhishek Banerjee on rebel candidates in panchayat polls

However, while reacting to the remarks Banerjee made on Thursday afternoon, Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “NRC is one of the biggest political standpoints of the BJP. It cannot be and will not be diluted by any BJP state unit. NRC is connected to India’s internal security. NRC will be executed under any circumstance.”

“CAA, too, is necessary for the benefit of Hindu refugees and Indian Muslims. Banerjee must answer why the number of voters in several districts lying along the India-Bangladesh border has gone up in recent years. It is because birth control programmes have failed or, is it because of illegal infiltration?” Bhattacharya said.

The tussle has surfaced at a time when BJP is trying to woo Muslim voters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on Muslims in his January 17 address at the BJP national executive meet has forced the party’s Bengal unit to reach out to the minority vote bank which was always described by the saffron camp as the subject of Banerjee’s “appeasement policy.”

While launching the Lok Sabha campaign in Bengal on April 14, Union home minister Amit Shah said the TMC government will collapse automatically if voters can ensure BJP’s victory in more than 35 seats in 2024.

“It is difficult for any party to win 35 Lok Sabha seats without support from Muslims. They currently comprise around 34% of the population according to our estimate. I am sure Muslims will vote for us in 2024,” Ali Hossain, former president of the BJP’s state minority morcha (cell), said.

“The minority community is abandoning the ruling party. TMC’s defeat in the recent Sagardighi assembly bypoll in Murshidabad district was an eye-opener. The chief minister is concerned,” added Bhattacharya.

Also Read: Who fired bullets? Mamata Banerjee on Mrityunjay Barman’s death in Kaliaganj

TMC state vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said that the NRC and CAA are some kinds of non-existent ploy that the BJP has been using for the last six years to threaten a section of the population.

He said that these have been devised to create a rift among Hindus and Muslims. “BJP raises the NRC issue just before elections in some specific states. It did not figure in the BJP’s agenda during the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls. Suddenly, it is an issue in Karnataka,” added Majumdar

According to political science professor Udayan Bandopadhyay, “NRC will again create a rift in the society before the coming polls. The signs are visible although it is too early to say which party will benefit from it.”

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