Updated: December 17, 2019 9:19:46 am
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led a massive rally through the heart of Kolkata Monday against the amended citizenship law, and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) — and said that if the Centre plans to implement them in the state, “they will have to do it over my dead body”.
The TMC government, meanwhile, put on hold the updation process of the National Population Register (NPR) in the state for Census 2021 amid fears that it was the “first step” to the NRC.
Speaking at the rally, Banerjee said: “As long as I am alive, I will never implement the citizenship law or NRC in the state. You can dismiss my government or put me in jail, but I will never implement this black law. We will continue to protest democratically till this law is scrapped. If they want to implement it in West Bengal, they will
have to do it over my dead body.”
She also said: “All of us are citizens of this country, no one can take that away from us.”
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The rally, which was attended by thousands of people including senior TMC leaders, began after 1 pm near the statue of B R Ambedkar on Red Road and ended around 5 pm at Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore.
Banerjee was accompanied by TMC leaders Firhad Hakim, Avishek Banerjee, Aroop Biswas, Indranil Sen and Shovandev Chatterjee.
As the 5-km rally wound up, Banerjee said: “We will be on the street, until and unless the NRC and Citizen Amendment Act are withdrawn.”
Accusing the BJP of fuelling violence in West Bengal against the law, the Chief Minister asked people to organise their movement “in a peaceful way”. “Some people will try to instigate but don’t be trapped… write your name with blood and then send that to the President and the Governor. Go and say to the Governor that this Act is unconstitutional,” she said.
“If no one comes (to protest), I shall fight this battle alone. But now, all parties are realising why the BJP is doing this. Now the chief ministers of Bihar, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh are also echoing our demand and have taken a stand against NRC and CAA. Nitish Kumar opposed NRC, I think he will be against CAA soon,” she said.
“We assembled before Ambedkar’s statue because he drafted our Constitution, which is now in danger. We respect the Constitution… Through a democratic and peaceful movement, we will join the protests articulated by people across the country,” she said.
West Bengal has been at the forefront of a pushback by Opposition governments against the new citizenship law. Kerala and Punjab, too, have made clear that they will not implement the law.
On the NRC updation process, officials said it was to take place from April to September next year.
However, a government notification stated that “all activities regarding the preparation/ updation of the National Population Register (NPR) are hereby stayed in West Bengal”. “No activity regarding NPR may be taken up without prior clearance from the government of West Bengal. This order is issued in the interest of public order,” it said.
A government official said: “NPR is the first step towards a nationwide NRC. Therefore, we have decided to stall the updation process until further notice.”
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