Chief Ministers of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee and Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan today hit the streets leading a massive protest opposing the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India.
“We will never allow the NRC and the amended Citizenship Act in Bengal,” Mamata expressed her rigid stance while addressing a protest rally at Jorashanko, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Mamata, the Trinamool Congress supremo, began the protest four-kilometre march from the statue of B R Ambedkar, Dalit icon and one of the framers of the Indian Constitution, on the Red Road and culminated at Jorasakho Thakur Bari, the ancestral house of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in north Kolkata.
She said India cannot be allowed to be divided on the basis of religion to determine citizenship and recalled how Tagore had opposed the partition of Bengal in 1905 and quoted the poet’s famous lines “Banglar maati Banglar jal/Banglar Shobha, Banglar phal.”
Claiming that India is a land of people belonging to all faiths, Mamata said, “The new citizenship law and proposed NRC will be implemented over my dead body.”
The Chief Minister said it was she who was the first to oppose the NRC and the amended citizenship act and added that she was ready to go it alone on the issue even if nobody else joins her campaign.
In this context, she quoted another song by Tagore: “jodi tor daak suney keu naa aashey, tobay ekla chalo rey.”
She appealed the people to shun all forms of violence and destruction of public properties during the protests against the amended citizenship legislation and said the agitation against the law would not stop till the law and the proposed NRC are rolled back.
“Don’t burn trains, rail stations and block highways and roads. See, several trains are not plying. Who is suffering due to all these? It is the common people,” Mamata said.
Her remarks came after four consecutive days of arson and violent protests in various parts of West Bengal including burning of five trains, 15 buses and vandalization of at least a dozen rail stations besides blockade of highways and roads.
As Mamata walked briskly along the Red Road, Central Avenue and Bow Bazar Street before reaching Jorasanko where hundreds of her party leaders and supporters accompanied her carrying posters and flags against the controversial law.
However, Mamata’s street march was dubbed “unconstitutional” by West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar whose ties with the Chief Minister have been acrimonious.
Mamata’s march came a day after the Trinamool Congress activists held protests across the state yesterday.
Party leaders including ministers held rallies and demanded that the citizenship law be scrapped because it allegedly discriminated against Muslims.
Vijayan attacked the Citizenship (Amendment) Act saying it was an attempt to "curb" freedom.
He alleged that the country was facing an "explosive" atmosphere.
Speaking at a joint protest meeting organised by ruling CPI(M)-led and the Opposition Congress-led coalitions in Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayan said, “Our country is facing a severe crisis. This has been deliberately created by the central government.”
The RSS's agenda was to ensure that India should not be a secular but a religious nation, he said adding that this will not be allowed.
India is a secular nation and believers of all religions and atheists have a place in this country, Vijayan said.
Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala alleged the amended citizenship legislation was a “great agenda” of the BJP and RSS.
Besides, Mamata’s main political rival in West Bengal the Bharatiya Janata Party also brought out a street march from Garia to Jadavpur in south Kolkata is supporting the amended citizenship law.