Kailash Vijayvargiya: Saw workers eating poha not roti… suspicious… they were Bangladeshis

Milind Ghatwai, Liz Mathew
Saw workers eating poha not roti... suspicious... they were Bangladeshis: BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya

Vijayvargiya, the BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal, has been vocal in the party’s high-decibel campaign on the CAA and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). (File photo)

Amid nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said at a pro-CAA seminar that he saw construction workers at his house “eating a lot of poha”, grew suspicious over “why they were not eating roti” and concluded that they were from Bangladesh.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Vijayvargiya said his comments, which were made in Indore Thursday, had been “twisted” by rivals and that he was only trying to drive home the importance of the Act to “differentiate between refugees and infiltrators”.

“They were not eating rotis, they could not speak or understand Hindi. They could not tell me which district they belonged to. If they had told me which district they were from, I would have understood because I know West Bengal very well. But it was clear that they had no idea about it,” Vijayvargiya said.

Reacting to the BJP national general secretary’s remarks, the Congress said they established concerns about the manner in which the BJP-led NDA government is likely to conduct the National Population Register (NPR) exercise by profiling people on the basis of religion, language, community and eating habits.

“If a responsible senior leader of the BJP can today declare someone as a foreigner and infiltrator because he or she is having poha, if you can profile a person’s nationality and connect it to national security, this is the reason why we are saying this government will use NPR to profile people,” Congress leader Sushmita Dev said.

Dev demanded an apology from Vijayvargiya for “instilling fear in the minds of the people”, and a clarification from the BJP.

READ | Indians actually love to eat poha, here’s how it is made

In a video clip from Thursday’s seminar, Vijayvargiya is heard saying in Hindi: “Around 2 crore refugees and infiltrators are there in our country, around 1 crore in Bengal itself. They are around but you cannot even imagine where all they are. I will give you an example. My son Kalpesh is getting married, and his room is being built. One day I reached home around 9 pm. Whenever someone comes home during our meal, we feed them. When I came in front of the labourers, they were eating a lot of poha in a big plate. I asked why they were eating poha at this time and not roti. They said they do not eat roti, they only eat poha. I grew suspicious about which country they belong to since they do not eat roti.”

He is heard saying: “When I asked from where they were, their supervisor said, ‘sir, they are from Bengal’. I asked from where in Bengal, they couldn’t say anything. I got suspicious and asked where are you from. Then the contractor said maybe they are outsiders. I asked him how could you make them work at my home. The contractor told me they come very cheap. They work for food twice a day and Rs 300, while workers from here take Rs 600 and work only till 5 pm. They were from Bangladesh.”

During the seminar, the BJP leader also claimed that a “Bangladeshi terrorist” was keeping a watch on him for the last one-and-a-half years. “Whenever I go out, six armed security personnel follow me. What is happening in this country? Will people from outside enter and spread so much terror?” he asked.

On the CAA, he said: “Don’t get confused by rumours. The CAA is in the interest of the country. This law will provide asylum to genuine refugees and identify intruders who are a threat to the country’s internal security.”

Referring to Vijayvargiya’s claims about a “Bangladeshi terrorist”, Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said: “If he has not lodged a complaint, it means he is deliberately making such comments to create an atmosphere... Why was he silent before the CAA?’’

Vijayvargiya, the BJP general secretary in charge of West Bengal, has been vocal in the party’s high-decibel campaign on the CAA and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).