With the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) all set to be tabled in the Lok Sabha today to benefit non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hardened her posturing on the issue by equating the opposition to the proposed law with a “second freedom struggle” and invoking Bengali sub-nationalism.
Dubbing the Bill and NRC as “unconstitutional and discriminatory,” Mamata told a party meeting in Dum Dum in Kolkata on Friday that the Constitution made it clear that “there would not be any discrimination on the basis of religion. Citizenship is a constitutional right. If one snatches citizenship, there will be another independence struggle.”
Asking the workers of her Trinamool Congress (TMC) party to mobilize public opinion against the CAB and the NRC, she invoked Rabindranath Tagore’s song against the partition of Bengal in 1905 to serve as inspiration.
“Let us pledge today that we will not allow NRC and CAB to happen and we will not allow anyone to leave West Bengal,” said Mamata.
The two main components of the Trinamool Congress chief’s resistance to the CAB is that it opens religious fault-lines and that it also creates a discrimination between the tribal areas of north eastern states, which have been kept out of the ambit of the Bill and the tribal areas in West Bengal and adjacent Jharkhand and Odisha which are sought to be brought under the proposed legislation.
“West Bengal have Gorkhas in Darjeeling and Kalimpong and Rajbonsis in north Bengal. Why is the BJP silent on them?’ she said.
Without referring to any religious community, she also pointed out that “people have stayed in West Bengal, elected governments and ministers. Now the BJP is trying to find infiltrators among them.”
“All previous governments in the state and at the Centre become invalid if infiltrators have voted them to office. So, the election of all former Prime Ministers Nehru, Atalji (A B Vajpayee) and Manmohan ji is invalid?” Mamata questioned.
While the BJP wants the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the NRC to be seen as stand-alone moves, Mamata treats, as she said yesterday, the two as “two sides of the same coin.”
Her scaling up the tirade on a polarizing issue is clearly keeping in mind the fresh assembly elections in West Bengal which has the largest presence of Muslims (about 30 percent) among the Indian states who can swing the outcome in at least 90 constituencies in the state.
Mamata has also flagged the NRC issue in a big way in the state by pointing to the exclusion of large number of non-Muslims in the final NRC in Assam. That such a strategy seems to have paid off electorally was evident in theTMC’ victory in all the three assembly bye-elections recently.