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FIRs on Mamata over Assam salvo

An artiste greets chief minister Mamata Banerjee at a folk festival in Birbhum’s Joydeb on Thursday. Picture by Indrajit Roy

Calcutta/Guwahati: Three FIRs were lodged against Mamata Banerjee in Assam on Thursday and her effigies burnt, but an unfazed Bengal chief minister repeated her allegation that the BJP was plotting to drive Bengalis out of the northeastern state.

Mamata had on Wednesday accused Assam's ruling party of deliberately excluding Bengalis from the first draft of the updated National Register of Citizens, being revised avowedly to identify illegal immigrants in the state bordering Bangladesh.

Guwahati police have registered a case against Mamata on charges of creating enmity between communities (Section 153A of the penal code) after two FIRs were lodged at Latasil, by Gauhati High Court lawyer Tailendra Nath Das and former Assam Trinamul politician Kailash Sarma.

A third FIR was lodged by All Assam Shramik Krishak Kalyan Parishad leader Pradip Kalita at Dispur, but no case has been registered in connection with it.

The All Assam Students Union and other outfits burnt effigies of Mamata at protest rallies and demanded her arrest. The Assam BJP accused her of playing divisive politics and committing contempt of court, stressing that the register revision was being conducted under Supreme Court supervision.

Mamata, however, continued to criticise the drive, which she had on Wednesday likened to the alleged " Bongal Kheda (Expel Bengalis)" ethnic cleansing campaign in Assam in the 1960s-80s.

"Today, they (the BJP) are going to Assam and saying that the 1.3 crore people there who speak Bengali are to be thrown out. We never say such things, how dare you?" she said at Ilambazar, Birbhum, on Thursday.

The first draft of the revised register, published at midnight on December 31, includes 1.9 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants. "You (the BJP) will go to Assam and drive out Bengalis and then try to come to Bengal with your politics - that simply cannot happen," Mamata said.

In Parliament, Trinamul members led by Saugata Roy made the same allegation, which home minister Rajnath Singh dismissed as "baseless". The Centre said there was time to include more names in the register.

Trinamul sources said Mamata had sensed an opportunity to use the emotive issue against the BJP, but was also "concerned" about the possible impact of the register revision on Bengal.

"If over one crore Bengalis are forced out of Assam, Bengal will be forced to shoulder a substantial share of the burden," a Trinamul source said.

Bengal minister and Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said: "Police cases, FIRs, central agencies, any other method of threat or intimidation - nothing can stop Mamata Banerjee."

Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh accused Mamata of "political opportunism" and of raising "non-issues".

Bangladesh information minister Hasanul Haq Inu said in Calcutta that there had been "no reports of any large-scale migration from Bangladesh to Assam in the past 45 years".

"We haven't been told anything about the (register revision) officially by the Indian government. But this is India's internal matter," he said.

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