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To protest NRC exercise, Matua community blocks roads, rail tracks in West Bengal

The Matuas are a community of five million migrants from Bangladesh who settled in the North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Cooch Behar, Birbhum and Burdwan districts.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2018 14:58 IST
Matua,NRC,Roads
Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party members hold placards during a protest over the Assam NRC issue at Parliament House in New Delhi on July 31.(PTI photo)

Anger against the exclusion of over four million people from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in Assam spilled onto the roads and railway tracks of neighbouring West Bengal on Wednesday, with members of the Matua community waylaying trains at over a dozen spots in the North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts.

The Matuas also obstructed the national highway-6 connecting Kolkata and Mumbai at Chandrapur in Howrah district, about 55 km from Kolkata. They raised slogans against BJP leaders, including state party president Dilip Ghosh, who promised to carry out the exercise in Bengal too if elected to power.

Leaders of the Namasudra community – of whom Matuas are a part – said this was just a token agitation. They have threatened to scale it up over the next few days.

The Matuas are a community of five million migrants from Bangladesh who settled in the North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Cooch Behar, Birbhum and Burdwan districts. They come under the scheduled caste category.

The agitation began around 8-8.30 am at Dumdum, Sodepur, Titagarh, Palta, Halisahar, New Barrackpore, Madhyamgram, Barasat, Thakurnagar and Bhaybla in North 24 Parganas district and Chakdah, Bagula, Badkulla in Nadia district. The agitators beat drums and waved the red triangular flags of their community in some places. Banners held up by them accused the BJP of conspiring to evict Bengalis from Assam.

Millions of daily passengers were inconvenienced as the blockade continued till 11 am.

According to state food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mullick, the protest was a culmination of the community’s expression of solidarity towards those ignored in the NRC list as well as fears triggered by BJP leaders.

Others charged the ruling BJP of discriminating among migrants on the basis of religion. “Taking care of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh is our utmost responsibility. It is as per the words uttered by our leaders during Independence,” Ghosh had said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Illegal immigrants (muslim) 4m B’desh r changing our overall demography,socio-economics.Youth are moving 2wards Western Bharat in search of jobs since those illegal migrants are taking our places,” the BJP leader said in another tweet.

Mukul Chandra Bairagyo, working president of the Sarva Bharatiya Namashudra Vikash Parishad, promised to continue the agitation until the decision is reversed. “Bigger protest programmes will be announced ahead of Independence Day,” he said. “We can feel the pain and anxiety of those left out of the Assam list. Wednesday’s protest was just a token one. We will scale up the agitation if the list is not withdrawn.”

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 14:35 IST