Days after the BJP, in a bid to appease Matua voters in West Bengal ahead of the Assembly polls, said that the Central government would begin implementing the new citizenship law (CAA) by February, Trinamool Congress supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday exhorted that the Matua community had already been identified as Indian citizens and there was no question of giving them “new citizenship”.
“There are many refugees here. We have wholeheartedly accepted you. Know this, all you are [Indian] citizens. You don’t need any certificate. Now, if they ask for grandfather and grandmother’s certificates, will you be able to provide?… I’m saying all Matua people are Indian citizens. There’s no need for a certificate for it,” Banerjee said at a rally in Thakurnagar in Matua-dominated Bongaon area of North 24-Parganas district.
At another rally in Gopalnagar in Bongaon, the TMC chief once again vehemently opposed the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal.
“The Trinamool Congress will once again form the government in West Bengal with a full majority. It is for sure that we will not allow CAA and NRC to be implemented in Bengal. BJP outsiders are trying to divide Bengal on religious lines. They are distributing money. I would like to request to all my people across the state to keep an eye on these outsiders and lodge FIRs against those who are suspicious and involved in anti-democratic activities,” she said.
A majority of the Matua population in the state belong to Namashudra (Hindu Dalit) community, who worship Harichand Thakur and Guruchand Thakur as their guardians. Matuas migrated from Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, during and after Partition.
Matuas dominate nearly 90 Assembly segments and about 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Aware of their strength — which can turn the table for any political party in the polls — Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday tried to revive her ‘lost connect’ with the community.
“I have met all the demands of the Matua people. We are also coming up with a university named after founders of the Matua community Harichand Thakur and Guruchand Thakur. We have also started various schemes to empower women in the state,” she said.
The Chief Minister also harked back on her relationship with Binapani Thakur, an influential leader of the community who died in March 2019. “When she was alive, I used to keep regular contact with her to know about her health. She was like my mother,” she said.
Banerjee also announced that the birth anniversary of Harichand Thakur would be declared a government holiday.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and in the 2016 Assembly election, it was with the community’s support that the TMC won in Bongaon. However, the winds have changed direction since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when BJP has managed to snatch the seat from the TMC with promises of CAA. “I have done enough for the Matuas and am still serving the people despite facing severe fund crunch. Despite doing so much for the people, sometimes, I feel sad and feel like going away. I felt that people don’t want me,” Mamata said.
“I stood by you in every crisis for the last 20 years. When I became MP in 1984 from Jadavpur, I fought for your land rights. I regularised 94 refugee colonies, gave land patta…You don’t have to worry because you are already a citizen of India. Why do you need another citizenship?” she added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines