The politics in West Bengal over controversial National Register of Citizens has once again beginning to heat up.
In a bid to blunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s move to introduce a pan-India NRC, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that attempts would be made to regularise all refugee colonies of up to three acres irrespective of who owns the land. Those living in these colonies would be given land rights.
Mamata told reporters after a meeting of her cabinet that “we have decided to regularise all the refugee settlements simply because it has been a long time now — nearly 48 years. Since (March) 1971, they have been left living without a home or land. I believe refugees have the right.”
According to Mamata, more than 13,000 and 12,000 families living on land owned by the state and central governments respectively would benefit from the decision.
On the other hand, Bharatiya Janata Party national secretary Rahul Sinha accused Mamata Banerjee of “misleading” people and appeasing her party’s vote bank.
“First of all, the state government has no power or jurisdiction to transfer central government land to anyone. Second, it is trying to win over the refugees by making such announcements as it knows that once the central government brings in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the refugees will eventually get land rights. Third, our definition of refugees does not match with that of Trinamool Congress. They are including infiltrators under the category of refugees but we don’t include infiltrators as refugees,” he said.
The Modi government plans to introduce the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which seeks to give citizenship for non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who were subjected religious persecution in those countries and took shelter in India, in the ongoing winter session of parliament.
Mamata has sought to tap apprehensions among large Hindu refugees in West Bengal in the wake of the exclusion of 12 lakh Hindus from the NRC in Assam three months ago. The BJP considers Hindus as its vote bank.