(Eds: With additional inputs and BJPs reax) Kolkata, Aug 28 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday urged the student community to fight back the BJP's attacks, and vowed to give a 'taste of freedom' to the entire country by defeating the saffron party's 'political epidemic' in the 2021 Assembly polls in the state.
She also slammed the Centre over its decision to conduct JEE and NEET exams in September, and said the Union government's 'adamant approach' will add to the COVID-19 woes as examinees may get infected by the virus while travelling to and fro examination centres.
The BJP was quick to hit back, asking Banerjee 'not to pursue politics' by putting the career of students at stake and refrain from spreading the 'virus of petty politics' in every aspect of life.
'The BJP is threatening everybody, but all of us are capable of fighting it back. I would like to tell my youth and student leaders to fight this political epidemic of the BJP.
They are using draconian black laws to target opposition parties,' she said.
Addressing a virtual rally of Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP), students wing of the TMC, Banerjee alleged that the BJP is using its 'fake news team' to spread canards against the West Bengal government by trying to pass off images of neighbouring Bangladesh as those of the state.
'Bengal will give people a taste of freedom and liberate people of India from the BJP's clutches by defeating them in 2021 Assembly polls. I am ready to sacrifice my life for this. Let them put all of us in jail. We are not scared of them. We are not cowards,' she said.
The TMC supremo said that her fight against the saffron party will continue for the betterment of society.
On the issue of holding final-year examinations in colleges and universities, Banerjee said that she has asked the state education minister to look into the possibility of conducting these exams before Durga Puja in October.
'The option of holding the exams in both online and offline methods should be looked into, she said.
'We are not against any exam; we are just saying that a pandemic is on, and it could put the lives of students at risk. There won't be any exams in colleges and universities in September,' Banerjee said.
She wondered who will take the responsibility if the students get infected by the virus while travelling for appearing for the exams.
The Supreme Court ruled earlier in the day that states and universities cannot promote students without holding final-year exams by September 30.
Upholding University Grants Commissions decision to hold final year exams, the apex court said that if any state feels it can not conduct examinations by that date amid the coronavirus pandemic, it must approach UGC for new dates.
'A few months back, UGC itself had said that there is no need for holding exams. Now they are saying final-year exams have to be conducted. They are confused about what to do and what not to do. Now they are putting the lives of innocent students at risk,' she said.
Criticising the Centre for its decision to hold JEE- NEET exams in September, Banerjee said, 'We asked the Union government to defer the process due to the pandemic. But the government is adamant.... It is busy issuing sermons instead of listening to Mann ki Baat of students.' Ministers of six opposition-ruled states, including West Bengal, moved the Supreme Court on Friday seeking review of its order permitting the Centre to conduct NEET and JEE entrance exams this year, amid the pandemic.
'A few days back, Chief Ministers of 7-8 states held a (virtual) meeting. We had decided that on behalf of students, we will file an appeal for review in the Supreme Court.
Accordingly, law ministers of six states have signed a petition, on behalf of Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak,' Banerjee said.
Reacting to the allegations raised by the TMC chief, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said that the ruling party is trying to mislead the people of the state on the NEET-JEE issue.
'As soon NEET-JEE dates were announced, lakhs of students have downloaded their admit cards. It means they are willing to appear for the test. The TMC has no other work, as its days in the government are numbered. It is spreading political virus in every aspect of life,' he claimed.
Banerjee also urged students and youths to intensify their stir against the alleged 'communal and anti-federal' policies of the BJP.
The chief minister said that one day, the TMC will show light to the people and guide them out of the darkness of what she claimed the atrocities and injustice of the BJP.
Indicating that the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be the TMC's major electoral planks in the Assembly polls, she said that the people of West Bengal have not forgotten 'how innocent people were harassed in the name of NRC in Assam'.
Banerjee alleged that the BJP is implementing National Population Register (NPR) and NRC in states where it is in power.
'Henceforth, if you go out for a cup of tea, you have to carry all documents to prove your citizenship,' she claimed.
Accusing the Centre of not extending any help to the West Bengal government post-cyclone Amphan apart from a Rs 1,000 crore interim aid, the chief minister said that the union government has stopped clearing financial dues as part of GST compensation to states.
'States are not being given their due GST compensation for the last several months. Those who don't have any 'niti' (ideals) have created NITI Aayog and dissolved Planning Commission,' she said. PTI PNT NN NN