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She often makes noise in political space and in many cases she wins the game as a simple, straight forward and energetic politician of India. But not all the time, she could convert her outbursts in her favour and it backfired. Here is one such development, where she wanted to be a saviour of Bengali people, but ended up as a promoter of minority vote banks. But her appeasement policy towards the religious community in West Bengal was never a secret for the people of India and the talkative Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already earned the reputation in switching over the minority vote banks from the Communist Party to her Trinamool Congress. Now perhaps it is her turn to continue soothing the vote banks. So when Assam released the first draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the midnight of 31 December 2017, Ms Banerjee found a reason to react in a negative light looking at the delicate Bengali-Assamese relationship.


But contrary to the widespread apprehensions of unpleasant situation arising after the release of the NRC draft, no unwanted incidents were reported from any part of the State. The Government authorities along with various political parties, civil society & advocacy group representatives and the media deserved appreciations for their pragmatic roles in maintaining peace across the region after the release of the NRC draft, where many people could not find their names in the list. The much-awaited updating of 1951 NRC has been undergoing in Assam following the direction and supervision of the Supreme Court of India and the first draft comprised 1.9 crore people out of around 3.29 crore total applicants. The process of updating began in 2013, which received 6.5 crore supporting documents comprising 68.27 Lakh families residing in the State. The second and final part of the draft is expected to be published by this year. It is a follow-up action of Assam Accord, signed by the leaders of All Assam Students Union (AASU) and Asom Gana Sangram Parishad in 1985 with the Union government in New Delhi in presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The historic memorandum of understanding puts responsibility on the Centre to detect and deport all migrants (read East Pakistani and Bangladeshi Nationals) who entered Assam after 25 March 1971.

In other words, the agreement accepted all residents prior to the dateline as Indian Nationals in Assam even though the movement was run with the spirit of 1951 as the base year to detect illegal migrants like the other parts of India. It also mentioned about constitutional safeguards to the indigenous communities of Assam to be facilitated by the Centre. The influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants remains a vital socio-political issue for Assam, along with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur of Northeast India till today. With that very sentiment, the Assam movement erupted in eighties and culminated with the agreement. The development finally empowered Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) with the same leadership of AASU to come to power at Dispur for two terms, but shockingly the regional party leaders betrayed the people over the issue.

Ms Banerjee initially made a public statement claiming that the NRC updating process in Assam was a ‘conspiracy to drive away Bengali people’ from the State. She also asked her party Parliamentarians to raise voice against the NRC in the national capital. Later a public meeting was also organized in Kolkata to gather public support against the process. But not to speak of her State people, Ms Banerjee even could not convince the Bengali speaking people living in Assam. They denounced her intention and clarified that Ms Banerjee was never a guardian or spokesperson for the Bengali community of Assam. They had a relevant question to her, ‘if Ms Banerjee was so concerned about the Bengalis, why she was opposing the Centre’s citizenship amendment initiative’. It may be noted the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has prepared to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 with the provisions to grant citizenship to the persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh after due processes. If the BJP led government in New Delhi succeeds in passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the Parliament, hundred thousand Hindu Bengalis (with few other communities) would get Indian citizenships.

Nava Thakuria

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