Monday, 30th October 2017

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Midwife test for NRC dads

Mamata lists problems families will face

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya in Calcutta
  • Published 18.12.19, 2:46 AM
  • Updated 18.12.19, 2:46 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Mamata Banerjee greets people as they reach out for her from the roadside during her protest march in Calcutta on Tuesday Pradip Sanyal

Mamata Banerjee has set up a task for Amit Shah and Narendra Modi: use their brute majority to promulgate a bill to resurrect midwives from the afterlife.

The Bengal chief minister was addressing a gathering where she narrated her own travails with documentation, including an anecdote that brought to light the striking coincidence that Tuesday was her mother’s death anniversary. Mamata also underscored the daunting challenge countless Indian households would face irrespective of religion if the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is enforced in the country.

“Back then, midwives used to oversee births in every home. Then the long-deceased midwives have to be resurrected from the afterlife. Bring a bill for that, why don’t you? That bill is in order now, I tell you,” Mamata said to deafening applause and laughter.

“Well, this is where we stand now, in a theatre of the absurd,” she shrugged.

The chief minister was at the south Calcutta edition of her mega marches against the “black” citizenship legislation and the NRC.

Mamata cited her own example “because charity begins at home”. “If they ask me tomorrow, ‘furnish your mother’s birth certificate’, will I be able to? I can, at best, furnish my own educational documents and certificates. Where from will I get documents of my deceased ancestors? Those who are asking for it, will they themselves be able to? Certificates of parents, from 50 years ago, they are seeking now,” the Trinamul Congress chief said during her 20-minute address at the Jadavpur 8B bus stand before the start of the 7km march.

Mamata was flagging concerns that arose from the execution of the NRC exercise in Assam. Whoever did not have documents in their own name issued before the midnight of March 24, 1971, were required to furnish papers of ancestors (such as their birth certificate, land documents in their name, education certificates and ration card, besides proof of the relationship between the applicant and the ancestor).

“Do you know? I was going to London once, for some government-related work. In a government document, they asked for proof of my mother’s date of birth ‘or else you will not be cleared to go’, they said. I said: ‘Bhai, I can give you (proof of) my mother’s date of demise’. It happens to be today, December 17. I don’t know how to prove to you my mother’s date of birth,” Mamata said.

“In our time, parents did not have institutional deliveries. Almost everyone of them, the parents of those from our generation. Now you tell me that I have to prove my mother’s date of birth. Where will I get it? Someone told me to just give something, I said I won’t. Why should I? What I don’t know, I don’t know. What I do not have, I do not have.”

Mamata demanded answers from the BJP-led Centre on why after an entire lifetime as citizens in this country, people were being pushed into proving citizenship credentials through documents of deceased ancestors.

“Born here, raised here, studied here, stayed here, seven-time MP, two-time MLA, from being beaten up on the streets to here…. Now I will give you proof of my identity, of my father and my mother and their ancestors?… Suddenly, unnecessarily, after 73 years of Independence?” she asked.

“Ask those leaders who are dancing about with CAB (as the amended citizenship law was known when it was a bill) and the NRC. Can they furnish these details? Those who are young now, they can. From those born before the 1970s – 1950s, 1940s, 1930s – where will they get these things? Institutional delivery did not exist,” she added.

Mamata said the BJP was trying to use the exercise as part of its diversionary tactic. “Arrey bhai! Roti, kapda, makaan (Food, clothing, shelter), that ought to be my home, my Hindustan. No roti, no kapda, no makaan. Only the policy of divide and rule,” she said.

“Sometimes, they will say ‘we will build a temple’. Sometimes, they will say ‘we will destroy a masjid’. Sometimes, they will say ‘we will drive out Muslims’. Sometimes, they will say ‘we will drive out Hindus’. Sometimes, it will be Christians, ‘we will cancel the Anglo-Indian seats (in legislatures)’. What is going on in this country?” she asked.