Bengal Dalit outfit to undertake “Long March” to Assam on Sept 9 to protest NRC exclusions

All India Namasudra Bikash Parishad is planning to marshal 20,000 persons for the protest march from Kamakhyaguri in North Bengal.

kolkata Updated: Sep 04, 2018 11:30 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Bengal,Assam,NRC
People checking their names on the final draft list of the state’s National Register of Citizens in Guwahati.(HT Photo)

One of the largest Dalit organisations in West Bengal has planned a ‘Long March to Assam’ on September 9 to protest exclusion of Hindu Bengalis from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). Should the authorities in Assam stop them at the border with Bengal, they have threatened to block NH 27 that connects the two states.

According to the programme schedule, the gathering will start from Kamakhyaguri in North Bengal and walk to Srirampur on Assam border, about 20 km away.

Read: Wait grows longer as NRC claims process yet to start in Assam

The plan to hold three public meetings at Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar and Chirang, from where they want to warn Assam government of ‘repercussions’ from Bengal.

They want to stay in Assam for a month and organise demonstrations.

“We had a talk with Darjeeling MP and Union minister S S Ahluwalia on August 30. He said the Centre has assured that no Hindus will suffer due to NRC. However, the reality is, Hindus in large numbers are being harassed and they are staring at an uncertain future. Our estimate is that more than 3 million of the total 4 million people excluded are Bengali Hindus,” said Mukul Chandra Bairagya, working president of All India Namasudra Bikash Parishad (AINBP).

Read: Two-thirds of Bengalis excluded from Assam NRC are Hindus: Mamata Banerjee

“The locals are being persecuted if they are trying to hold agitations. There is no option but to go from other states and demonstrate,” remarked Bairagya.

“We are urging all Bengalis cutting across caste and religion barriers to join our march,” said Jugal Kishor Sarkar, joint secretary of AINBP.

The Namasudras (once treated as untouchables) originally hailed from various districts of East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) but migrated to West Bengal over the past six decades, primarily in the face of atrocities perpetrated by Muslim fanatics.

Read: Hindutva group in Bengal launches crowdfunding to help Bengalis excluded from Assam NRC

They number above one crore in West Bengal and constitute a major vote bank for both the Left Front and Trinamool Congress.

The leaders of AINVP are conducting an intense campaign in north Bengal districts against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that rules Assam. The outfit accused BJP of pleasing the Assamese at the cost of jeopardising the interests of millions of Bengalis in dire straits.

Sensing trouble, BJP has already started a dialogue with the leaders of the outfit. Ahluwalia has offered to take them to New Delhi for meeting with the “appropriate authorities” to clear confusion.

Read: The NRC must be cautious, fair

Bairagya said they have told BJP leadership that they can sit for talks only after their ‘Long March to Assam’ is successfully conducted.

“I told them dialogue is the best way to resolve the problem and clear any confusion they may have. Some people are trying to provoke them. But the fact is that the state government in Bengal, or any state government for that matter, has no role to solving the crisis. It is only the Centre that can help and it is the Centre which is committed to protect the rights of the Hindu refugees,” said Ahluwalia on August 31.

“If they want, I will arrange for their meeting with appropriate persons at the Centre,” the minister added.

Read: Assam NRC exclusion triggers tremors in Bengal, set to become major Lok Sabha poll issue

Over the past couple of years, BJP in Bengal made quick inroads in localities dominated by people from the Namasudra community. Many of them have bitter sentiments against Muslims because of the atrocities they faced in Bangladesh.

However, the situation changed overnight following the release of the second draft list of NRC. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with AINBP leadership at her chamber in the state secretariat and instantly met most of their long-standing demands that included setting up a development board for the community and end to harassment caused by administrative officials seeking old land records to provide scheduled castes certificates.

First Published: Sep 04, 2018 11:30 IST