By Arun Srivastava
The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, might have thought his Bangladesh visit at the time of elections in Bengal would instil Matua community in the state. But he is mistaken. Not only the Muslims but even Hindus have come to distrust his observation as well as the rhetoric of is second in command Amit Shah about weeding out the illegal infiltrator, the termites, and help the persecuted Hindus.
Modi performed Puja at Kali Mandir of Matua people but at no stage he impressed upon the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take care of the Hindus. Only a day after his visit a Hindu temple was vandalised by the anti-socials. On the day Modi was in Dacca meeting Hasina and Matua leaders, a most volatile protest march was organised against the visit of Modi in which at least six persons were killed in police firing.
For last three years BJP had made ‘illegal infiltration’ a big issue in Assam, and the home minister, Amit Shah, built his entire campaign by attacking the Muslim leaders especially the All India United Democratic Front leader, Badruddin Ajmal, for supporting ‘infiltrators’. Modi’s visit to Matua mandir and his meeting with the matua patriarchs could not make much impact on the Matua people of West Bengal. Who matter in at least 35 assembly constituencies in the state.
Amidst Shah’s ferocious attacks against Ajmal and the illegal infiltrator, Badruddin during Modi’s stay there had added a new element to the controversy. He tweeted; “I would like to request him to discuss with Sheikh Hasina the issues of deportation of illegal immigrants and the Indo-Bangla border sealing to stop further infiltration.” This put the two leaders on defensive. It is worth taking note that ever since this tweet of Ajmal the two leaders were tactically refraining from raking this issue publically.
Already elections have been held in a few matua dominated constituencies, the BJP leaders are not in the mood to raise this issue during the rounds of polling in which matua dominated constituencies feature prominently. It is worth mentioning that neither the BJP made any such demand from the prime minister, nor has Modi or Shah raised the issue of infiltration, after return of Modi from Bangladesh. The Congress plans to make it a big issue once Rahul Gandhi descends in Bengal after Kerala elections are over.
The ambivalent stand of Amit Shah on CAA and NRC has further shaken the confidence of the Matua people. The BJP’s dilemma regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in election-bound West Bengal and Assam became obvious on March 25 when the party released its manifesto for the Assam elections.
Releasing the election manifesto for Assam, party’s president JP Nadda said CAA cannot be changed through a state legislation and did not commit to its implementation. Significantly just two days ahead of this incident Amit Shah, while releasing the manifesto for West Bengal had said that the state Cabinet would take a decision on implementing CAA if the BJP comes to power in the state. Shah promised it while he is not sure that the party will come to power. This was a ploy adopted by him to fool the matuas.
Though the party’s LokSabha member from Matua community Santanu Thakur still continues to convince his community people of the genuine concern of Modi and Shah, other leaders are sceptical. They argue that the two leaders should have been candid in their observation and stance. Ironically both of them nurse divergent stand towards the issue of their citizenship.
The BJP’s manifesto in Assam is silent on implementing CAA, which allows citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The BJP during the 2016 elections had promised implementation of CAA, which in the state would have meant automatic citizenship to minorities from Bangladesh, who came after the 1971 war of liberation, without going through the tedious NRC process.The Assam Accord provides citizenship to migrants after March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date. The difference in the time frame has caused serious consternation in the matua community of West Bengal.
Though Shah claims to implement CAA in Bengal; “Once we are in power, the first meeting of our Cabinet will announce the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act,” he has been maintaining a passive silence on implementing NRC in West Bengal, fearing that doing so could impact Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, including Dalit Hindu communities, the Rajbanshis of north Bengal and Matuas of south Bengal. The two constitute about 28% of the state’s population. Both the communities have demanded CAA and opposed NRC.
There is no denying the fact that in his over enthusiasm to reach out to the matuas, Amit Shah has turned both, Bangladesh government as well as matuas suspect of the real intentions of the Modi government. People of Assam nurse the fear that CAA would dilute the 1985 Assam Accord and lead to a fresh influx of Bangladeshi Hindus. In an attempt to assuage the feelings of the Hindus of Assam, Nadda said if the party is elected in Assam, it would make efforts to correct the NRC to protect genuine citizens. Ironically he could not explain why so far 19 lakh Hindus have been facing the threat of deportation and are yet to be provided with citizenship.
Academics and intellectuals have started seeking to know “ while BJP is talking only about a corrected NRC, why its 10 commitments contained in its manifesto do not mention CAA, which the party has committed to implement in West Bengal.” Instead the party has been focusing on the so-called clash of civilisations and promise to protect Assam’s ‘sanskriti’. The people also like to know what is the implication of “ “correct” the NRC. This word has been coined by the BJP to assuage the AASU leaders who hold that BJP doesn’t want to talk about CAA as it would adversely affect their electoral fortune in Assam. The BJP leadership has been tacitly resorting to this to convey “under NRC the people of Assam were expecting that at least 30-40 lakh more ‘sandehjukto lok’ (suspicious people) would be evicted”. (IPA Service)