‘Can Amit Shah Show His Birth Certificate?’: Ranaghat On NRC
One of the cornerstones of BJP's poll campaigns in West Bengal has been the promise to implement the NRC in the state, like it has in Assam.
In fact, recently at a poll rally in the state's Darjeeling constituency, BJP President Amit Shah stirred major controversy after he said this:
The Quint's election chaupal travelled to the Ranaghat constituency in the Nadia district of Bengal - a border district with Bangladesh - to ask the residents what they think about the NRC and Mr Shah's explosive statement.
Was Amit Shah’s Statement Acceptable?
Almost all of the respondents of our chaupal seemed to agree that the tonality of Amit Shah’s statement was incorrect, especially during election season.
“If they have to stop infiltrators then what about the 20-year-old boy in Pulwama who caused an attack with 350 kgs of ammunition and an SUV car? Why can’t they stop that? In their era, terror attacks have increased by 176%. They said that after demonetisation, terror attacks will reduce. Why don’t they talk about that? Why aren’t they, during this vote, saying that they will build universities or hospitals? Why are they propagating hate-crime politics with the NRC?” said Kamonashish Chatterjee, a private sector employee.
“Before the elections, we expected a certain amount of social responsibility from a national party. Instead, they did the expected. Divide-and-rule politics has become a cult for the BJP. A person like Amit Shah, from whom we expected more responsibility, is walking with that cult to divide people. There is an attempt to create communal disharmony between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains before the elections. This is again being used to reap electoral benefits from various provinces and areas. This cannot be condoned at all,” added Samrat Acharya, a theatre artist.
‘Can Amit Shah Show His Birth Certificate?’
The residents of Ranaghat also said that the sheer process of determining citizenship that is followed by the NRC is flawed and can, therefore, never be accepted in Bengal.
“He is claiming birth certificates from the people residing in Assam. If they demand a birth certificate from a man who is residing in Assam or other state of the country for 40 or 45 years, how will they get the birth certificate? Can Mr Amit Shah produce his birth certificate?” asked Tapas Banerjee, a retired headmaster.
Others, like teacher Kuheli Dutta, say that infiltration is a big problem in the country but the NRC is not the right way to go about it.
“It is obviously a problem that infiltrators are coming in from the border areas. If there are more people in the country than it can fend for, then there will be a problem everywhere. But for the people who are here for 40 years, having this new policy for them is a bad thing. Saying 'we will throw them away’ is a bad thing. Let them stop the new infiltrators first! Or even stop these attacks that a previous speaker was talking about,”said Kuheli.
Will the Communal Rhetoric Work in Bengal?
Finally, we asked all the residents if evoking the names of specific communities, or the communal rhetoric, as it is called, will work in Bengal?
Once again, all of them seemed to agree that it won’t.
“There is no BJP in this state. There are two states in India that has seen the most amount of communal riots – Punjab and Bengal. So we don't want such politics which perpetuate hate crime. In any case, hate crimes have increased a lot. This is not Uttar Pradesh, so it's not like a radical organisation can come here and tell us what to eat or what to wear!” said Kamonashish.
Samrat Acharya, however, warned that some parts of the state might get influenced, but that fact will come to bite them later.
“There are still some parts of West Bengal where communal sentiments can be used to cause disharmony amongst people. But what we need to tell those people is that a party like the BJP doesn’t just use something like the NRC for votes. They use it as a political weapon. A few days later, we may see that those who support the BJP and have accepted this policy and hence, brought them to power, may also be chucked out by the NRC if the BJP feels that they don’t agree with them,” Acharya said.
Kuheli opined that especially in a land like Nadia, which is home to the saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who preached communal harmony, talks of dividing people will not work.
“When Mahaprabhu has asked us to embrace everyone, who is Amit Shah? Why should we listen to him and push people away?”she asked.