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‘Try touching anyone,’ Mamata Banerjee warns BJP over citizen list demand in Bengal

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said his party was in favour of granting citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had migrated to India due to oppression.

india Updated: Aug 03, 2018 09:24 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,NRC,National Register of Citizens
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee speaks to the media after attending a meeting with Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)

Bengal BJP leaders took out a procession in Kolkata on Thursday to demand a citizenship-screening exercise akin to that of Assam, spurring chief minister Mamata Banerjee to warn them against “touching anybody in the state”.

A delegation led by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh also submitted a memorandum in this regard to governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.

Bengal BJP leaders – including party women’s cell president Locket Chatterjee – demanded at the rally that Banerjee allow the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in the eastern state. “The chief minister should clarify if she stands for the citizens of Bengal or its illegal immigrants. Let people coming from outside Bengal provide documents that can establish their citizenship rights. The documents will be checked, and it will be decided whether they are eligible to stay here or not. But the chief minister is trying to mislead people with her vote-bank politics,” alleged Chatterjee.

Banerjee was quick to respond with a challenge of her own. “Who are they? Let them touch anyone and they will see the consequences,” she told mediapersons after landing at the Kolkata airport. She had just returned from a two-day trip to New Delhi.

The chief minister alleged that the BJP was trying to bring about an “emergency-like situation” across the country. “That is why our delegation to Assam was stopped and manhandled at Assam’s Silchar airport. Members of the team, which had some woman leaders too, were assaulted despite the Union home minister’s assurance. During the riots at Asansol in Bengal this April, a BJP delegation from Delhi breached prohibitory orders under Section 144 to visit affected areas. But we did not arrest or stop them. Then why were our delegation members heckled when they only wanted to meet the common people in Assam?” she asked.

Incidentally, Banerjee had thrown a similar challenge at Narendra Modi while he was campaigning in Bengal before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP leader, who went on to become the country’s prime minister, had said that Bangladeshis who cross over to West Bengal would be sent back.

Ghosh said he raised the issue with Tripathi during their meeting on Thursday. “We told the governor that we want the chief minister to stop saying that the NRC will lead to a civil war. We also requested the governor’s intervention to prevent Trinamool leaders from making trips to Assam, where the NRC issue has not triggered any violence. The Assam police did the right thing by stopping the Trinamool delegation at the airport,” he added.

The state BJP president said his party was in favour of granting citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had migrated to India due to oppression.

The delegation also told the governor that the party was not in favour of a state assembly resolution aimed at renaming West Bengal as ‘Bangla’. “We told the governor that the name West Bengal should be retained, and he should intervene in the matter,” said Ghosh.

Incidentally, none of the three BJP legislators in the assembly – including Ghosh – had objected to the resolution when it was passed last week.

First Published: Aug 03, 2018 08:46 IST