West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee at an anti-CAA rally in Darjeeling on Wednesday. (Express)
At her first roadshow in Darjeeling since the launch of the Trinamool Congress campaign against CAA, NRC and NPR, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday questioned the rationale behind implementing the new citizenship law in the hill region when some states in the Northeast have been granted certain exemptions. “Why this discrimination? Why were one lakh Gorkhas left out from the NRC in Assam? Why did you leave out 13 lakh Hindus? Indians are now asking whether they have to fight for their freedom 70 years after Independence.”
Thousands participated in the procession from Bhanu Bhakta Bhawan to Chowk Bazar in the heart of Darjeeling town as people lined up along the road. After the rally, Banerjee said, “I want to tell the BJP that bad-mouthing me all the time will not work. Tell us whether you will withdraw CAA or not. If it is not dubious, why have you left out Assam and Tripura? Why are these BJP-ruled states out of the purview of CAA?”
The Bengal CM said, “Gorkhas are genuine citizens of India. Nobody can snatch their rights. All ethnic groups in the hills are Indians, no matter which dialect they speak. BJP leaders visit the hills before elections and promise to create Gorkhaland. They flee the hills once polls are over. Do they think people of the hills are fools? Don’t they have self-respect?”
The TMC had lost control of the hill region in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “Mamata knew that it is high time to regain popularity among the Gorkhas. Because after the NRC was published in Assam, Gorkhas of the hill region are very much panicked and BJP’s popularity is also decreasing,” a TMC leader said.
“I did not get votes but today I felt that people of Darjeeling need to protect their rights. I will not allow a single Gorkha to be driven out of the hills. If someone visits your home and asks for information or documents, do not give it. Use whatever proof of address or identity you use to include your name in voter list. We will not allow any detention camp in Bengal,” the CM said.
Hitting out at Union Home Minister Amit Shah on his speech, Banerjee said, “Yesterday, I heard India’s home minister making tall speeches. BJP says we are liars. Tell me whether certain conditions are there in the NPR or not. Tell me whether people applying for citizenship will have to live as aliens for five years or not. This means people will lose jobs because aliens cannot work in India. Children will lose their school certificates. Citizens will lose the right to the property they own.”
Asking people not to be afraid of CAA, she said, “People are scared that if CAA and NRC are implemented, they will be uprooted. I want to tell the hill people do not allow NRC and CAA,” she said in Nepali, reading out from a note. “See I am trying to read Nepali. I will catch up slowly,” she said.
“When we protest they say we are Pakistanis. Why do you talk of Pakistan all the time? In Lucknow, where women were protesting, they stole their blankets and their water. People were left in the cold,” Banerjee said.
“Look at the state of the country. Why don’t you provide jobs for people and set up industries? Why don’t you help farmers and give women the respect they deserve. Ordnance factories are being shut down, Air India will be sold. They are dividing people. They are out to sell the country,” the Chief Minister said.