War of words between BJP, TMC over Matua community's citizenship issue

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has said she will never allow the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to be implemented in the state

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (PTI- file photo)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (PTI- file photo)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

Addressing the public on a visit to Krishnanagar, Nadia district, on Wednesday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that she won’t allow the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to be implemented in the state as long as she’s alive.

“I will not allow CAA in West Bengal as long as I’m alive, even if I’m no longer the CM,” she said, responding to a statement made by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs & Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal who assured the Matua community residing in the Bongaon district of West Bengal that they will be granted citizenship under the CAA. 

“I have spoken to the Matua community across the country and your [Matuas] problems about citizenship will be resolved. The process has already started and it will be resolved. There may be some delay due to technical issues but it will be implemented. Citizenship related issues of those from the Matua community will be resolved. If there are document-related problems, it will be resolved. The intention of the Centre is clear,” said Meghwal while attending the 36th Annual Convention of Matuas in Bongaon on Monday. 

Trashing Meghwal’s statement, Banerjee said that the Matuas are already Indian citizens and do not require any more citizenships “under any act”.

“BJP brings in the CAA only when it’s election season. The BJP is using the Matua community to gain votes. They are selling a pack of lies to Matuas who are already Indian citizens. By saying that they will grant them citizenship, they are playing on the sentiments of the Rajbongshis and the Hills people and trying to divide Bengal,” she said.

“BJP is trying to implant puppets who do not belong in Bengal ahead of the elections. They are trying to make their vote-bank grow,” she added.

Since the amendment of the Citizenship Act in 2019, the West Bengal CM has been vehemently against it – she has consistently highlighted it’s “anti-Muslim” provisions and deemed it the BJP’s tool for “vote-bank politics”.

“Modi could not become the Prime Minister without your votes, nor could I become the Chief Minister without your votes. If you could vote, then you are a citizen of India. If Matuas are not citizens, then I am also not a citizen of India,” she said in her public address. 

Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress (TMC) is also planning to bring in a resolution against the CAA-NRC in the upcoming winter session of the West Bengal Assembly beginning November 18.

The Nadia district is home to many Matuas refugees who migrated from Bangladesh. Banerjee’s trip to Krishnanagar forms part of her three-day trip to Nadia which has proven to be a highly contentious zone for her party as several parts of the district have seen the rise of BJP supporters.

TMC party insiders claim that “fake promises of citizenship to the Matuas” coupled with the recent corruption allegations against party leaders and factional feuds have allowed BJP to expand its support base.

“The situation has changed. The fake promise of citizenship by the BJP has misled our voters. There would be different results this time,” said the TMC’s Nadia North spokesperson Banikumar Roy.

During her speech, Banerjee claimed that the TMC will rapidly conclude all the development projects in Nadia, offer free-hold land to refugees and provide them with permanent addresses to solidify their right to property. 

She also claimed that the BJP was using CAA to mislead the voters in Gujarat. “With the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls later this year, and Lok Sabha elections just a year-and-a-half away, it has again started to raise the CAA issue,” she said.

In response to Banerjee’s stance, the president of the BJP's West Bengal unit Sukanta Majumdar said, “CAA matters lie with the Central govt. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have passed it. They'll be implemented throughout the country. If CM Mamata Banerjee objects to it, I'd like to request the Matua and Namasudra community to think about the treatment meted out to them by Mamata Banerjee.”

“None of the Matuas have received citizenship or permanent addresses under the CAA yet,” said Mrinal Kanti Basak, a resident of Ranaghat, Nadia, who is closely associated with the All India Matua Mahasangha. “The Matuas, the Rajbongshis, and the Namasudras all have been fighting for territorial autonomy for generations and this has become a political battleground for both the BJP and TMC,” he added.

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