Eye on Bengal polls, Amit Shah nurtures Rajbongshi sentiments, showers sops

  • The Rajbongshi community, the largest Scheduled Caste (SC) group of West Bengal, forms around 30% of the population in north Bengal.
Amit Shah also announced a <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>500-crore cultural centre for the Rajbongshis, setting up a statue of Thakur Panchanan Barma, a Rajbongshi leader and a social reformer from Cooch Behar. (PTI PHOTO)
Amit Shah also announced a 500-crore cultural centre for the Rajbongshis, setting up a statue of Thakur Panchanan Barma, a Rajbongshi leader and a social reformer from Cooch Behar. (PTI PHOTO)
Published on Feb 11, 2021 11:34 PM IST
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With an eye on the crucial assembly elections in West Bengal, Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced the formation of a new battalion in the paramilitary forces that would be named after the famed armed troops of the erstwhile princely state of Cooch Behar - Narayani Sena.

“In the name of Narayani Sena, the Narendra Modi-led government will set up a new battalion named Narayani Battalion in the central paramilitary forces. The training centre would be named after Chilarai (Shukladhwaj Singha --- a legendary commander of the Koch dynasty),” Shah said while addressing a rally in Cooch Behar.

The Rajbongshi community, the largest Scheduled Caste (SC) group of West Bengal, forms around 30% of the population in north Bengal. The formation of a ‘Narayani Sena’ regiment has been an emotive issue for them.

Earlier in November 2020, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had also announced the formation of three police battalions one of them being ‘Narayani’ in Cooch Behar to woo the community ahead of the polls.

Shah also announced a 500-crore cultural centre for the Rajbongshis, setting up a statue of Thakur Panchanan Barma, a Rajbongshi leader and a social reformer from Cooch Behar.

He added that the BJP government would develop a tourist circuit comprising Madan Mohan Temple, Kamteshwari Mandir and the birth-place of Panchanan Barma so that people from across India could visit.

With Cooch Behar being a district located along the porous Indo-Bangla border, the Union home minister attacked the state’s ruling TMC on cross-border infiltration.

“Just the name of Narayani Sena, had left the Mughal army bewildered. Chilarai forced the Mughals to retreat. But today that land is being filled up with infiltrators,” he said.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the community, which is numerically significant in North Bengal especially in Cooch Behar district, had helped the BJP to make deep inroads in north Bengal. Shah met Ananta Rai Maharaj in Assam. He is one of the most important Rajbongshi leaders.

The TMC is however not far behind in the race. Banerjee had recently announced two separate boards for the Rajbongshi, along with 25 crore for the community’s upliftment.

Earlier in January, Banerjee said the school education department would inspect 200 informal schools, where education was imparted through Rajbongshi language, to find out whether those could be converted into formal schools.

Out of the eight Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal, BJP had won seven in 2019 elections leaving just one for the Congress. The TMC didn’t win any seats. This time both parties are eyeing north Bengal where the Rajbongshi community plays an important role.

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Monday, January 24, 2022