A new row erupted in West Bengal after opposition leader in the state assembly, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, claimed on Tuesday that implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the country had begun and West Bengal would not be left out.
Adhikari’s comment came a day after the central government decided to grant Indian citizenship to minorities, mostly from Pakistan, living in Gujarat’s Anand and Mehsana districts, under the Citizenship Act of 1955.
According to a notification from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians living in Anand and Mehsana districts of Gujarat will be admitted to register as citizens of India under Section 5 or obtain a certificate of naturalization under section 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and in accordance with the provisions of the Citizenship Rules, 2009.
Adhikari, however, claimed that this decision came after the Union government had started enforcing the CAA, 2019.
“CAA has already been rolled out in two districts of Gujarat through the notice giving citizenship to certain minority groups who came from neighboring countries like Pakistan,” he said.
“Bengal cannot be left out of the CAA implementation process. The members of the Matua community and other backward castes such as namasudras will soon receive certain benefits. The CAA will also be rolled out in our state,” added the Nandigram MLA.
The shipping minister Shantanu Thakur, who is a member of the Matua community, supported Adhikari and said: “I can only say that if the CAA is implemented, it will be of great help to members of backward castes, including the Matua community.”
“The process started with Gujarat. It will also be done in other BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh,” he added.
Adhikari’s comments drew criticism from congressional leaders, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPI(M).
TMC spokesman Kunal Ghosh said the ruling party in West Bengal will never allow the CAA to take effect in the state. “The BJP will not be able to roll out the CAA in the country. Suvendu Adhikari is making strong claims ahead of the 2023 Panchayat polls as part of their effort to polarize society,” he claimed.
Echoing Ghosh’s sentiments, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, president of the Bengal Congress, asked why certain refugees were being excluded. “Why does the Center not offer citizenship to refugees from Sri Lanka and Myanmar? Do they have no rights? The BJP is only targeting Islamic nations to sow hatred in our society,” he was quoted as saying Hindu times.
“Congress stands for integration and harmony, not for dividing society along religious lines,” he added.
“We will not allow the CAA to be implemented in the country. The BJP cannot impose such a decision without some consensus. None of the secular parties in the country will allow this,” said Sujan Chakraborty, member of CPI(M’s central committee).
The CAA, which offers accelerated citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015, was introduced in 2019 but has been met with widespread protests across the country. Since the rules under the law have not yet been drawn up by the Center, no one has been able to obtain citizenship under the law until now.
(With inputs from PTI)
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