NEW DELHI/ KOLKATA, Aug 8 (PTI): Amid the ongoing row over the National Register of Citizens (NRC), former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Wednesday urged the government to prepare a similar list for the residents of West Bengal to identify genuine Indians, saying the state was also “affected by illegal immigration” from Bangladesh.
However, senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said conducting an NRC exercise would not be allowed in West Bengal and asked the propagators of this idea not to “play with fire”.
Mahanta, who is now camping in the national capital, said the ongoing update of the NRC in Assam should be foolproof and no Indians should be left out and no illegal immigrants included in the final list of Assam’s residents. “We want the NRC in all states. First, we want an NRC in West Bengal which is also affected by illegal immigration from Bangladesh as language and culture of West Bengal and Bangladesh are same,” he told a press conference here.
Mahanta, a signatory of the 1985 Assam Accord which provides for identification and deportation of illegal immigrants from the state, said even the local residents of West Bengal are in favour of an NRC in the state.
“An NRC is an urgent necessity for West Bengal. The central government should appoint a good nodal officer of the NRC in West Bengal and start the exercise,” he said. Mahanta’s comments came days after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the NRC exercise in Assam was done with a “political motive” to divide people and it would lead to “bloodbath” and a “civil war” in the country.
The NRC, a massive Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indians living in Assam excluded over 40 lakh people from the draft list published on July 30, creating a huge political controversy.
Mahanta, whose party AGP is part of the ruling alliance in Assam, also opposed the move to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, seeking to grant citizenship to people from minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. “We appeal to the central government not to bring the citizenship amendment bill as it would negate the Assam Accord and allow citizenship to illegal immigrants,” he said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act. Among others, the amendment bill seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they do not possess any proper document.
A large section of people and organisations in the northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion. The Bill is now under consideration of a joint committee of Parliament.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said conducting an NRC exercise would not be allowed in West Bengal and asked the propagators of this idea not to “play with fire”.
Parties should desist from trying to reap political dividends by polarising people in the name of NRC, Mannan said while addressing a convention on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
The complete draft of the NRC which was released on July 30 has left out over 40 lakh applicants.
“Where will those having been born 50 years back will go? What is happening to Bengalis and other linguistic minorities in Assam will happen to others also in future, if we can’t resist this dangerous trend to divide people along communal and linguistic lines,” said Mannan, the leader of the Opposition of the West Bengal assembly.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha on Tuesday urged upon the Indian Muslims, especially those living in West Bengal to support an NRC exercise in the state claiming that it is becoming a hub for infiltrators under the Trinamool Congress rule.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had also said the NRC will be published in the state on the lines of the one in Assam if his party is voted to power in the state.
Without naming the BJP, Mannan said, “Some people are also talking about conducting the NRC exercise in West Bengal if they came to power in future. They should not play with fire. We assert this will never be allowed to happen in our state.”
Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty described omission of over 40 lakh applicants in the complete NRC draft as “against humanity”.
Besides Bengali-speaking, names of many non-Bengalis were dropped from the final draft list, Chakraborty claimed. “This is not a fight between Assam and Bengal. This is not a fight between Assamese and Bengalis. This is an attack on human beings having lived in the country as bonafide citizens for ages,” he said.
The CPI(M) MLA said he was also against the policy of targeting a particular religious community in the name of deportation.
Chakraborty also termed Dilip Ghosh’s statement on conducting an NRC exercise in West Bengal as “audacious”. Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar also spoke in the convention. The ‘Assam Sanhati Manch’ that organised the convention later took out a protest rally in the city.