Bengal becomes fourth state to pass resolution on CAA in house
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee urged her arch-rival Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M) and the Congress to put aside “narrow political differences” and jointly fight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre as West Bengal became the fourth state to pass an assembly resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on Monday.
Speaking ahead of the passage of the resolution, Banerjee said the National Population Register (NPR), the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAA are related. She called the amended citizenship law “anti-people” amid slogans like “Didi-Modi are two sides of the same coin” by members of the Opposition Congress and the CPI (M). Banerjee is popularly known as Didi or sister.
Banerjee referred to the Congress and the CPI (M)’s criticism over her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 11 and added her government had the guts to skip a meeting related to the NPR in Delhi “...if the BJP wants, it can dismiss my government,” said Banerjee.
She insisted the CAA is anti-constitutional. “We want this law to be repealed immediately,” she said. Banerjee asked the Congress and the Left Front to stop “spreading canards” against her government. “Time has come to forget our narrow differences and fight together to save the country,” she said.
Banerjee maintained her government will never allow citizenship screening. “The CAA and the NRC will alienate genuine citizens,” she said.
The resolution came two days after Congress-ruled Rajasthan passed an assembly resolution saying the CAA should be scrapped. Left-ruled Kerala and Congress-ruled Punjab passed similar resolutions on December 31 and January 17.
The CAA was passed last month to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims, who have entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015, and triggered protests across the country.
Slogans against Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah were also raised during the discussion on the West Bengal assembly resolution, which sought a repeal of the CAA. The resolution also demanded that the NRC and NPR process be withdrawn immediately. It added the NPR and NRC are linked.
The NPR is a comprehensive biometric database of all “usual residents” in India as opposed to the Census, which is a database of households. It has generated controversy with the Opposition parties contending the exercise is linked to the National Register for Indian Citizens aimed at identifying undocumented immigrants. The government has in the past described NPR as the first step towards a nationwide NRC. It now maintains that there is no link between the two and that an all-India NRC is not immediately on the anvil.
Kerala and West Bengal have announced they will not participate in the NPR exercise, which will begin from April.
West Bengal’s parliamentary affairs minister, Partha Chatterjee, tabled the resolution in the assembly. BJP lawmakers like Swadhin Kumar Sarkar opposed the resolution amid anti-Centre slogans by ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) members. The BJP has 14 members in West Bengal’s 294-member House.
Congress and the Left parties supported the government and voted for the resolution even as their leaders criticised the TMC for not allowing them to introduce it earlier this month.
CPI (M) lawmaker Sujan Chakraborty questioned why the TMC government did not pass the resolution they wanted to present on January 9 and waited till January 27. “The Centre brought the CAA into force on January 10.”
BJP leader Rahul Sinha said the resolution proves that the TMC government “is anti-national and anti-Constitution because it speaks against a law [CAA] of the country”. He said the TMC is opposed to the NPR because once the population data is compiled, people will come to know how many people in Bengal are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and how many citizens are jobless.