A Trinamool Congress delegation of eight legislators, who were on a two-day visit to Assam to participate in an NRC convention, claimed they were detained and manhandled by police when they arrived at Silchar airport. The eight-member delegation comprised MPs and MLAs — Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Ratna De Nag, Nadimul Haque, Arpita Ghosh, Mamata Bala Thakur, Firhad Hakim and Mahua Moitra — said police only escorted them to their hotel after they were confined in the airport for a few hours.
“As soon as we reached the arrival lounge of Silchar airport, we were confronted by a team comprising of the district magistrate and police officers. An officer hit me on the chest. Police also manhandled Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Mamata Bala Thakur and Mahua Moitra,” alleged Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Rajya Sabha MP.
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Lok Sabha MP Arpita Ghosh told The Indian Express from Silchar: “They said we are under arrest and have to come with them. We told them that we will not leave the airport unless they show us arrest warrants. They were not able to show us any. There is a massive police presence here and we have also been clearly told that whatever happens, they will not let us go to Guwahati.” Arresting an MP while Parliament is in session requires a go-ahead from the presiding officer of the House of which s/he is a member. Members of the delegation also claimed police had snatched their cellphones.
“There are hundreds of policemen here. They did not allow us to leave the airport. They were taking our pictures. I asked them on the basis of which law they are doing all this. Policemen have snatched our cellphones,” said Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Lok Sabha MP from Barasat.
“Even a magistrate was present at the airport where we were confined to a room. They would not listen to reason,” said Dastidar. According to PTI, the Assam government has not yet commented on the matter.
Barbaric, says Mamata Banerjee
Describing the manhandling of her MPs and MLAs at Silchar airport as “barbaric”, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday said the BJP has been “exposed”. Speaking outside Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport, she said, “Our team of MPs has been manhandled at Silchar airport and the Assam government has shown a barbaric attitude towards them. When I had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, he had assured me that no one will be harassed. After that, a parliamentary delegation including a state minister, an MLA and six MPs have been manhandled. They went there to meet the people and the victims (of the NRC exercise).”
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“If everything is peaceful, why is this government behaving rudely with the MPs? If nothing is there, then why has Section 144 of CrPC been imposed? Is it their vendetta to suppress facts? The people of Assam are in panic and this BJP government is showing its muscle just like a super emergency government… The BJP government is exposed now,” she added. TMC national spokesperson Derek O’Brien said, “This is a super emergency. This is not an issue of Assam alone, but a national issue. What happened in Assam can tomorrow happen anywhere — Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab. BJP is doing divisive politics.”
The ruling party also tweeted out videos of the scuffle to counter allegations that its workers had “assaulted” police officers at the airport. Assam govt did the right thing, says BJP.
The state BJP, on the other hand, said that the Assam government has done the right thing, and that the TMC delegation should be forced out of the state. “Who asked the Trinamool MPs to go there? No one else has gone there. They have gone there to spread tension and create trouble. They should come back or be forced out of the state… they have gone there to indulge in vote bank politics. The situation in Assam is peaceful,” said Dilip Ghosh, state BJP president.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said, “If they try to create unrest in Assam, the administration will take action. They should be forced out of the state.”
With inputs from Delhi