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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Hindu group from Bengal collects NRC data in Assam

Singha Bahini, a Bengali Hindu organisation formed last month by former leaders of a far Right group is discreetly sending its members to Assam to collect data on Bengalis excluded from NRC

india Updated: Aug 25, 2018 23:36 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
A paramilitary person walks past as people whose names were left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft stand in a queue to collect forms to file appeals near a NRC center on the outskirts of Guwahati.
A paramilitary person walks past as people whose names were left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft stand in a queue to collect forms to file appeals near a NRC center on the outskirts of Guwahati.(AP File Photo)
         

Singha Bahini, a Bengali Hindu organisation formed last month by former leaders of a far Right group is discreetly sending its members to Assam to collect data on Bengalis excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30.

Over the past 10 days, Singha Bahini members have visited many locations in Assam, including the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley which has three districts. They collected data and took photographs and videos of affected Bengali Hindu families.

They claim to have documented the plight of four families, some of whose members allegedly committed suicide after being dropped from the NRC. Among the other families, a large number have members with roots in Bengal.

The organisation plans to launch a campaign soon for which it had started raising money through Milaap, a crowdfunding website, five days before the draft NRC was published.

Though official records do not offer any break-up of the ethnic or religious background of the people left out from the NRC, Bengali rights groups in Assam claim that anything between 1.2 and 1.5 million Bengali Hindus have not made it to the draft.

Some Bengal government officers have contacted Singha Bahini and inquired about the outcome of the field visits. “A few officers in Kolkata interact with us from time to time. I cannot go into details,” a senior leader of the Hindu outfit said on condition of anonymity.

Singha Bahini secretary Prasun Maitra said the findings will be made public in Kolkata on Monday, August 27.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that she wants to make NRC a key issue in the Lok Sabha polls, but she could not send her party leaders to Assam. On August 2, a team of eight Trinamool MPs and MLas was stopped at Silchar airport, allegedly assaulted and sent back by the Assam government.

A furious Banerjee had described the incident as “super emergency” while BJP accused Trinamool of politicising the issue to secure minority votes. BJP president Amit Shah even alleged at a rally in Kolkata on August 11 that illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh comprised Trinamool’s vote bank.

The Singha Bahini has been formed by eight former leaders of Hindu Samhati, the Kolkata-based Hindutva group that defended in court a teenager whose social media post triggered communal riots in North 24 Parganas district in 2017.

“Most people outside Assam seem to think that confinement to detention camps is the worst thing happening, and life outside the camps is normal. The plight of Bengali Hindus is endless,” said Shantanu Sanyal, president, All Assam Bengali Parishad (AABP) from Guwahati.

“On August 14, 102-year-old Chandradhar Das travelled 40 km from his residence in Barak Valley to reach one of the NRC tribunals in Silchar. He waited for three hours for a hearing but was told to return in September since no government lawyer was present on that day. Such absenteeism is common. We have requested the government to at least provide lawyers on humanitarian ground,” Sanyal said.

“Census figures show that the number of Hindus in Assam has gone down by around 10% between 1971 and 2011. This contradicts allegations of migration of Hindus from Bangladesh,” said Sanyal.

The AABP has set up camps across Assam to help Hindu Bengalis fill up claim and objection forms provided by the government. It has also submitted memorandums to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju.

“Not just a sizeable section of Bengalis settled across India and the world, even many old Congress and Left leaders, including Bengal’s longest serving chief minister Jyoti Basu, had roots in Bangladesh. Many of these people lived in refugee camps after the 1971 Bangladesh War. But after settling down they have forgotten the past,” alleged Singha Bahini president Devdutta Maji.

Although Jyoti Basu was born in Kolkata, his father Nishikanta Basu, a doctor, hailed from Narayanganj district (part of Dhaka division) of Bangladesh.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 22:28 IST