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3rd deadline missed, Bengal BJP leaders to knock on PM Modi’s door to protest CAA delay

CAA was passed by Parliament in 2019, but central government yet to form rules for its implementation. On 9 January, it missed the third deadline extension.

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Kolkata: The All India Matua Mahasangha an influential body of the Matua community in West Bengal is preparing to send a delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to urge them to expedite implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

The delegation will be headed by BJP MLA from Gaighata Subrata Thakur, who is the brother of Union minister Shantanu Thakur both tall Matua leaders who have fought elections for the party. The meeting will take place once the present Covid situation improves, the MLA told ThePrint.

While the CAA was passed by Parliament in 2019, the central government is yet to form rules for its implementation. On 9 January, it missed the third deadline extension for doing so, but there has been no official statement from the home ministry on whether a fourth extension had been sought yet. 

Under the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Matuas, a Hindu sect of Scheduled Caste refugees from Bangladesh, were promised Indian citizenship. The community plays a strong role in West Bengal politics as it forms a large part of the population in at least 35 assembly constituencies, and has backed the BJP since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

Non-implementation of the CAA has made the Matua community found in large numbers in the state’s border districts of North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia etc extremely anxious. On 16 January, Union minister Shantanu Thakur, who is also president of the Mahasangha, held a closed-door meeting with the community’s leaders in Thakurnagar, its headquarters near Kolkata. 

At a press conference at the BJP’s state headquarters last Sunday, party spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya had told reporters: “There has been a delay in implementation of the CAA. It will be effective here in West Bengal before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.”

The controversial CAA promises a faster road to Indian citizenship for six minorities from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. However, critics call it discriminatory and its passage had sparked protests across different parts of the country.


Also Read: Bengal BJP leaders meet Modi, call for speedy CAA rollout so ‘those eligible can benefit’


‘We are answerable to our people’

Over the past week, Shantanu Thakur has been conducting meetings with not just Matua community members, but also disgruntled BJP leaders whose names were missing from the party’s newly-formed state committee.

“We had one meeting four days ago. We will hold at least two more meetings and wait for this Covid situation to decline and then a delegation of the All India Matua Mahasangha will submit a memorandum to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to ensure the CAA is implemented at the earliest. We have waited long, but there is uncertainty, and we are answerable to our people,” he told ThePrint.

In February last year, Amit Shah had gone to Thakurnagar to seek the support of Matuas a month before the West Bengal Assembly elections where he had said that the CAA will be implemented as soon as the central government completes its Covid vaccination programme, once the country was free of the virus.

Even in its state assembly election manifesto, the BJP had promised its implementation in the very first cabinet meeting if voted to power, but lost the election.  

Its own party leaders from West Bengal raising the demand for implementation of CAA has put the BJP in a tough spot. The party’s refugee cell in the state even issued a press note on 10 January.

“After the farm bills were repealed by the Centre, the refugees now are anxious whether the CAA bill will be implemented at all,” it had said, seeking implementation without further delay.

“It doesn’t take months to form rules. It only takes a few days but there has been a worrying delay, 80 per cent of the refugees reside in West Bengal and they ask us questions we have no answers to,” Dr Mohit Roy, convenor of BJP’s West Bengal Refugee Cell, told ThePrint.

“They are awaiting their citizenship to make legal documents such as passport. We have even sent suggestions to the home minister on what could be incorporated in the rules.”

‘Delay creating factionalism in Bengal BJP’

Maidul Islam, political scientist at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, told ThePrint that the delay in implementation of the CAA is resulting in factionalism in the West Bengal BJP.

“It’s a pet project of the RSS but the bill is discriminatory in nature in terms of the countries and religions picked for citizenship. If there is a sustained movement across the country, then the Centre can find it tough to implement as it’s also linked to the NRC (National Register of Citizens).”

Udayan Bandyopadhyay, associate professor of political science at Kolkata’s Bangabasi College, told ThePrint that “the CAA violates Article 7 of the Constitution and is extra-constitutional in nature”.

“One cannot predict the political impact it will have in West Bengal due to this delay, but the BJP will find it difficult to do so after the NRC debacle in Assam,” he added.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)


Also Read: BJP leaves CAA out of its Assam manifesto, 2 days after promising it in Bengal


 

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