West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been the Centre’s fiercest critic over the updated Assam citizen list, which leaves out names of nearly 40 lakh people and plans to crackdown on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But 13 years ago in 2005, the Trinamool chief took an entirely opposite stand over the same issue.
Mamata Banerjee, who said the Centre’s National Registry of Citizens (NRC) move will lead to a “civil war and bloodbath”, had back then said in Lok sabha that “infiltration into Bengal has become a disaster” and Bangladesh nationals were on the voting list.
Banerjee, an opposition lawmaker then, wanted a discussion on a “very serious matter” and had come with two sets of papers on illegal immigration from Bangladesh. When denied debate by then Lok Sabha deputy speaker Charanjeet Singh Atwal, who was presiding the House, she rushed to the well and started crying, tore and threw papers at him as stunned MPs watched.
Mamata also alleged that the ruling CPI-M were benefiting from illegal Bangladeshis as they have been a vote bank for the Left party.
The Bill Now
The West Bengal Assembly on Monday unanimously passed a Bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers in north Bengal, ending an era of uncertain future for the people residing in those enclaves.
Bangladesh and India had exchanged a total of 162 enclaves on Aug 1, 2015, ending one of the world’s most-complex border disputes that had lingered for seven decades since Independence.
Moved by Minister of State for Land and Land Reforms Chandrima Bhattacharya, the West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was passed in the House unopposed.
Speaking in support of the Bill, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said this “historic Bill” would help the enclave dwellers to get full-fledged status as citizens of India, along with all civic amenities and citizenship rights.
The Bill will help in the distribution of land-right documents to the people of the enclaves in the border district of Cooch Behar, the chief minister said, adding that the state government was working hard to give beneficiaries their due.
In Cooch Behar, 111 Indian enclaves, spread across 17,160 acres, became a part of Bangladesh territory and 51 Bangladesh enclaves, comprising 7,110 acres, joined India.
The enclave residents were allowed to either reside at their present location or move to the other country.
Around 37,334 people residing in the enclaves in the Indian side refused to go to Bangladesh, whereas 922 enclave dwellers, who were in the Bangladesh side, preferred to be in India, Banerjee said.
With the exchange of enclaves, following an agreement between the two countries with the consent of West Bengal, the enclave dwellers deserve their rights as the citizens of India, she said.
The state government had already spent over Rs 100 crore for the housing of the enclave dwellers, Banerjee said, adding that the government, which have received Rs 579 crore from the Centre, still had a due of Rs 426 crore. However, the state government needs to spent more from its own exchequer.
The process will result in creation of 13 new ‘mouzas’ (administrative district), while the rest of the area would be amalgamated with the existing 31 ‘mouzas’, the bill said.
Plot-to-plot verification has already been undertaken to ascertain the ownership status of the land to the dwellers, who now reside on khas land.
Describing how her government helped settle the long-pending issue, Banerjee criticised the way genuine citizens were being harassed in Assam. Those, who have come to India till March 1971, are all Indian citizens, “but a particular political party” was playing politics on the issue, forcing the genuine citizens even to commit suicide, she said.
The update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a massive exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam, excluded over 40 lakh people from the draft list published on July 30, creating a huge political controversy.