BJP lines up meets for NRC in Bengal

The BJP has drawn up a plan to organise small group meetings, seminars and rallies across Bengal, especially in districts that share borders with Bangladesh, to explain the necessity of preparing a National Register of Citizens for the state.

By Sandip Chowdhury
  • Published 13.09.18
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Calcutta: The BJP has drawn up a plan to organise small group meetings, seminars and rallies across Bengal, especially in districts that share borders with Bangladesh, to explain the necessity of preparing a National Register of Citizens for the state.

The move assumes significance at a time the BJP's national leaders have publicly vowed to expel Bangladeshi infiltrators from India.

Sources at 6, Muralidhar Sen Lane - the Bengal BJP headquarters - said the Refugee Cell of the party, which works among non-Muslim refugees from neighbouring countries, had drawn up a 21-day programme schedule.

"We are going to engage around 20,000 people across our 37 organisational districts in Bengal to campaign for the NRC in Bengal. This programme will begin from September 15 and end by October 7," BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu told The Telegraph.

After the release of the final draft of the NRC in Assam in July, which excluded 40 lakh out of 3.2 crore people in the state, the issue of infiltration has become an integral part of political debate in Bengal.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee called it an "anti-Bengali move" and vowed to oppose it tooth-and-nail - a stand that endeared her to Muslims who comprise 28 per cent of the electorate in Bengal.

Sources in the BJP said the party was focussing on the NRC to meet the objective of "polarisation" in an attempt to castle Mamata ahead of the Lok sabha polls.

"Infiltration from Bangladesh is an issue in Bengal. We want to explain to the people that though the Muslim infiltrators are playing havoc with Bengal's economy, Mamata is supporting them to win polls. This argument will surely help us," said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

According to him, the issue will be pursued with "full vigour" as the party's national leaders have already upped the ante on Bangladeshi infiltrators.

Addressing BJP workers in Jaipur on Tuesday, BJP national president Amit Shah said: "The BJP has vowed to not spare even a single Bangladeshi infiltrator. We will expel all of them."

Shah's comments came a day after BJP general secretary Ram Madhav had said the people whose names were excluded from the draft NRC would be disenfranchised and deported.

In Bengal, the NRC demand campaign would be carried out by the BJP under the banner of the Refugee Cell, but sources said various wings of the Sangh Parivar would be pressed into service to reach out to maximum number of people during the 21-day window.

According to the sources, group meetings at village levels will be organised and an eight-page booklet will be distributed among the participants to dispel misgivings among non-Muslim refugees.

"We are assuring all Hindu refugees, in fact all non-Muslim refugees in Bengal, that the Narendra Modi government has amended the Passport and Foreigners Act in 2015 and would also amend the Citizenship Act in the winter session of Parliament, which means they won't have to face any problem. Our primary targets are Muslim infiltrators," Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction.

The bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in India to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.

After being discussed in the Lok Sabha, the bill was referred to a joint select committee of Parliament in August.

According to a BJP insider, the parliamentary joint select committee is expected to submit its report by October and the Modi government is planning to call for a joint parliamentary session during the winter session to pass the bill.

"We will explain these details and assert at the group meetings and seminars that we will distinguish between illegal infiltrators and refugees. This will give us an edge in the elections," said Sinha.