Old Left warrior in CAA fight
The CPM is returning to its roots in Bengal.
The Left party has resuscitated a moribund post-partition-era mass organisation — the United Central Refugee Council (UCRC) — to breathe life into its campaign against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.
At a time the Trinamul Congress has zoomed ahead with statewide protests against the new citizenship regime, the CPM state committee met last week and decided to organise a movement under the banner of the UCRC.
“The organisation was set up by Left Front leaders in the 1950s and it played a key role in the rise of the communist parties in Bengal and the eventual ascension to power in 1977. We have decided to revive it as the new central act and the threat of the NRC and the NPR will affect those born in what used to be refugee families in the sixties and the seventies,” said Gautam Ghosh, a CPM state committee member.
The UCRC — formed with representation from several Left-leaning parties after the Partition when lakhs of refugees came to Calcutta from erstwhile East Pakistan — was a powerful organisation.
It made a mark in Bengal politics by organising protests after the then Congress government introduced a bill — commonly called the Eviction Bill — in the Assembly to facilitate the removal of squatters from government and private land. As the bill had primarily targeted refugees, the UCRC organised mass movements. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu was a vocal supporter of the organisation’s cause.
CPM leaders said that after the party came to power in 1977, the issue of refugees became irrelevant as the Left government gave them the same priority as the others. Many UCRC members then started joining other mass organisations for youths, students, farmers, workers and women.
Through the anti-citizenship law movement, the CPM is hopeful of bringing back to life the UCRC and reach out to the refugee families, many of who have over the past few years switched to the BJP. “We want to support them through a sustained movement against the CAA, NRC and the NPR,” Ghosh said.
UCRC leaders have planned a slew of programmes in January in every district with two major demands — scrapping of the CAA, the NRC and the NPR and immediate documentation of land in refugee colonies.
The UCRC leaders said they were preparing a database of those who came from Bangladesh as refugees and have been living in Bengal since. The Left will reach out to these people and tell them about the stand against the BJP’s policy regarding the CAA and the NRC.
“On Friday, we held protests in Birbhum, Nadia and Hooghly and a lot of people turned up. We will organise more such programmes,” said Madhusudan Dutta, the state general secretary of the UCRC.