NRC and Mamata’s hue and cry 

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“When ambition ends, happiness begins.”

– Thomas Merton

The firebrand West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has, sadly, reduced herself to a laughing stock with her remark that people who are left out from the final draft National Citizen’s Register (NRC) are Bengali-speaking and through her comment that the NRC is a sinister design of BJP she embraced severe criticism from all quarters. Mamata’s talk of ‘civil war’ and ‘bloodbath’ is a warning to the nation of divisive politics as well as a pointer to the kind of person she is. Mamata will keep every Indian on his toes, wary and suspicious of the other. Such type of illogical comment from a veteran and experienced leader like her is really unfortunate and uncalled for. The question is – does a seasoned politician like her have no knowledge about the NRC in Assam? The answer will be definitely a big no. She is doing so – even inciting bloodbaths and civil wars –mere for her cheap political gains. Some politicians are opportunists, the ‘shameless’ tag can be added to this West Bengal or ‘Bangla’ chief minister.

Now a critic over the updated Assam citizen list, which leaves out names of nearly 40 lakh people and plans to crackdown on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,  the Trinamool chief 13 years ago in 2005 took an entirely opposite stand over the same issue. The Bengal leader, an Opposition lawmaker then, wanted a discussion on a “very serious matter” and had come with two sets of papers on illegal immigration from Bangladesh. When denied debate by then Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjeet Singh Atwal, who was presiding the House, she rushed to the well and started crying, tore and threw papers at him insisting that they (illegal Bangladeshis)  be evicted, pronto, from West Bengal. Reason: The Left front was getting elected on the back of a vote-bank made-up of “illegal Bangladeshi migrants.” It is the height of hypocrisy that she is now projecting herself as the saviour of “Bengali-speaking” illegal migrants. She seems to have disregarded the Supreme Court’s assertion that those excluded from the list ‘must get a fair chance’ and the draft cannot form the basis of coercive action. The political storm created by some cynical leaders, like her, is an attempt to muddy the waters where fishing for minority votes becomes easier. Mamata loves playing with fire and had sent a team of her party to create tension in Assam particularly in Barak Valley. Taking a tough stand, the Assam government did not allow it to happen.

By creating a political controversy over the final draft of NRC, the TMC chief sees an opportunity to strengthen TMC’s foothold beyond West Bengal into Assam. For her, there is the added incentive of extending TMC’s reach in Assam by tapping into the Muslim vote bank and squeezing Congress or AIUDF’s space. Sadly, the national media, be it electronic or print, has given more prominence to her fury against the NRC than to the political maturity with which those 40 lakh people, who found their names missing in the NRC, accepted it.  Media failed to decipher that there is nothing new in Mamata’s utterances.

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