Kolkata: All eyes are on Union Home minister Amit Shah's scheduled seminar on the contentious National Register of Citizens and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 slated to be held on Tuesday in the city. Shah, who is also the BJP president, will visit the city on October 1 and inaugurate a community Durga Puja besides addressing the seminar, party sources said on Monday.
This will be Shah's first visit to West Bengal since he assumed the office of the Union Home Minister earlier this year. The seminar assumes importance as it is being held at a time when there have been 11 deaths in the state allegedly due to panic over the implementation of NRC in West Bengal.
Hundreds of people are seen lining up at government and municipal offices in the city and across the state to collect their birth certificates and necessary documents to be in readiness should NRC be implemented in the state.
Shah had repeatedly said that the NRC exercise will be conducted across the country and Mamata Banerjee-headed TMC government in West Bengal had avowed that the NRC exercise will not be allowed in the state.
According to state BJP sources, Shah's seminar is of immense importance as he likely to address all allegations by TMC and "misconceptions" created by it over NRC. "The TMC has deliberately tried to create a panic in the state over NRC. So Amit Shahji will give us a clear picture over the issue and dispel all the fears and misconceptions," a senior state BJP leader said.
In Assam, the only state in the country where the exercise was carried out to update the NRC, names of over 19 lakh people were omitted from the final list which was published on 31 August. Of them about 12 lakh are Hindus. NRC was one of the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985 and was carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
The omission of a large number of Hindu Bengalis from the final NRC list in BJP-ruled Assam has apparently created panic among the people and has allegedly led to eleven deaths in the state so far.
"The TMC has been opposing NRC to protect Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators who are its vote bank in West Bengal. But after many Hindus were omitted from the NRC final list in Assam, it is trying to project us as anti-Hindu and an anti-refugee party. This might take a toll on our prospects in Bengal," said a senior state BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.
TMC has been against the updating of the NRC calling it an "anti-Bengali" move by BJP. Meanwhile, TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee, has demanded that Shah and BJP leadership clarify the exclusion of a large number of Hindus in the final NRC list in Assam.
"BJP has been speaking on implementation of NRC to throw out infiltrators. It should first clarify why such a large number of Hindus were omitted from the NRC list in Assam. Are those Hindus who were omitted from the (NRC) list, infiltrators? BJP should clarify," he said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the current norm, even if they do not possess any document. The legislation was passed by Lok Sabha during its winter session on 8 January but could not be cleared by the upper house.
Some senior BJP leaders have said that the Bill would be reintroduced in the winter session of Parliament. Banerjee, who had met Shah earlier this month in the national capital over the matter, has been building strong public opinion against the NRC exercise. The TMC supremo had led a rally against NRC on September 12 in the city.
The West Bengal Assembly had in August passed a resolution against NRC and Banerjee had vowed not to allow its implementation in Bengal.