Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday reached out to the Matua community in the state and announced a host of development projects, including the setting up of a university, for the Scheduled Caste group.
Mamata made the announcement while attending a function to observe the birth centenary of Binapani Thakur, popularly known as Boro Ma, at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas — the traditional seat of the Matua community. Boro Ma is the matriarch of the Matua Mahasangh, a social reformation movement which started in Bangladesh and is now based in both Bangladesh and parts of West Bengal.
“The Matua Sangha is a movement, a voice for the poor, downtrodden, Namashudra and those who are neglected. Guruchand Thakur, Pramod Thakur and Harichand Thakur had started this movement. P R Thakur had founded Thakurnagar, the first refugee colony. Boro Ma is now heading this Sangha. We have already set up a college named after P R Thakur. We have set up Matua Sangha Bikash Parishad and Namashudra Development Parishad. We have now decided to set up a university named after Guruchand Thakur and Harichand Thakur. Around 9.8 acres of land for this university has been identified already at Chandpara. This is our token of tribute towards Matua Sangha,” she said.
The chief minister also said the tourism department will erect two gateways for Matua Bari and the entire area will be decorated with lights. “We will develop this area as a global tourist site,” she added.
Mamata’s move is seen as an attempt to reach out to the community ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Both the BJP and the Trinamool Congress have made such efforts to reach out to the leaders of the Matua community. Thakurnagar falls under the Bongaon Lok Sabha constituency, which currently held by TMC MP Mamata Bala Thakur.
“Matua Sangha has played an important role in speaking up for the poor. They have never discriminated against anyone. They have always worked for everyone and stood by people. Matua Sangha stands for unity, not division. They are working for social welfare, spreading education and upholding the culture,” said the chief minister.
On ‘atrocities’ committed in Assam
Mamata also spoke about “atrocities” faced by Bengali-speaking people and members of the Matua community following the implementation of NRC in Assam.
“A team of Trinamool lawmakers had gone to Assam earlier. Mamata Bala Thakur was in the delegation. They were not allowed to enter and were harassed. In the name of NRC, Bengalis are being evicted. They are driving Biharis away from Gujarat. Such incidents do not happen here. Bengalis who are being harassed in Assam must remember that West Bengal is also their home. We are ready to offer all help and support. We are not against Assam. But names of lakhs of people have been omitted in the name of NRC,” she said.
The chief minister further said, “It is not a crime to speak in Bengali. Many people hail from East Bengal when the country was undivided. People came here as refugees. A pact was signed between India and Bangladesh to give legal citizenship to all the refugees who came from East Bengal till 1971. There was Nehru-Liyaqat pact also. They are legal citizens with voters’ card, ration card, caste certificate and other documents.”
The chief minister further said citizenship cannot be snatched away and her government was in favour of refugees. “Citizenship cannot be snatched away. Those who are doing so are wrong. A brand of cheap politics is being played in the name of NRC, to exclude genuine voters. We do not support that. We support the movement of Matua Sangha. We are always in favour of refugees,” she said.