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Thursday, March 23, 2023

BJP MP Shantanu Thakur questions delay in CAA implementation, Matua refugees upset

BJP MP from Bongaon (North 24 Parganas), Shantanu Thakur, has said he will ask Home Minister Amit Shah to quickly implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) law in Bengal to ensure that people from Matua community, of which he is a part, get citizenship rights. Matuas have been upset with the delay in implementation of CAA, especially with Amit Shah’s statement that the Act will be implemented after Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Matuas have a sizeable population in the state and are among the Hindu refugees who migrated to West Bengal from neighbouring Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) during partition and in the subsequent decades.

While addressing a roadshow at Bolpur last month, Amit Shah had said that the implementation of the citizenship act will be planned only after a Covid-19 vaccine reached the people.

“Rules for CAA have not been framed as yet. We will plan its implementation after the Covid-19 vaccine reaches people. Let the vaccine come out first”, Shah had said. But after this announcement from the Union Home Minister, resentment has been brewing among the refugees especially among the Matua community.

Permanent citizenship has remained a long-standing demand within the Matua community, who are classified as a Scheduled Caste (SC). They form the state’s second largest scheduled caste population. Mostly concentrated in North and South 24 Parganas, they are spread across bordering districts such as Cooch Behar, North and South Dinajpur, Malda and Nadia.

“We were looking forward to Union Home minister Amit Shah making the announcement on implementation of CAA during his visit to West Bengal” said Shantanu Thakur. BJP National General Secretary and central observer for Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya had earlier promised it would be implemented from January.  “We are hopeful that as and when the pandemic situation normalises, there would be a decision. We would try to prioritize CAA implementation before elections in Bengal,” Vijayvargiya said.

Sources said that Shah also had a plan to visit the Matua strong hold of Thakurnagar during his two day Bengal tour, but the visit was cancelled at the last moment. A section of Matuas are unhappy with the delay in the implementation of CAA. Amit Shah’s statement indicates that it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

The party’s decision has irked Bongaon MP Shantanu Thakur. Thakur openly expressed the disappointment against his party’s position on CAA implementation. Thakur said that no political party had kept its promise and urged the Matua community to be prepared to act independently in future. Kailash Vijayvargiya has made a quick move to pacify Thakur.

Shantanu Thakur, who is also the joint President of AIMM (All India Matua Mahasangha), said that CAA is a major issue in Bharat. Claiming that TMC also exploited the NRC (National Register of Citizens) issue, he said no political party should play with the Matuas.

“The Matuas are not begging. CAA must be implemented at the earliest. No political party can be an opponent of the Matua Mahasangha, or be more powerful than the Matua Mahasangha. We are an independent political force of the future. Wherever there is a Matua population we will not reach out to any political party. We will take part in the elections on our own keeping our rights, our demands in the forefront. The CAA implementation is now very important. Almost one and a half crore people of Bharat are suffering for citizenship,” he added.

Shantanu Thakur said in Raiganj that Shah should clarify to the Matuas what BJP plans on the CAA. “It is important that the Act is implemented before state elections. Any delay in the process will have its ill effects,” said Thakur, reacting to Shah’s remarks that were a departure from Vijayavargiya’s ‘January’ promise.

The Thakur family are descendants of Harichand Thakur, founder of the Matua sect, and has its political loyalties divided between the BJP and TMC. Shantanu’s aunt Mamata Bala Thakur, a former TMC MP, said, “BJP was fooling the Matuas for political gains”.

The common people of Matua community are in severe dilemma. They have many unresolved questions: What will be the future of the Bangladeshi Hindu refugees who came to Bharat after 31st December 2014? Many Bangladeshi Hindu refugees who came to Bharat before 31st December, 2014 don’t have any documents regarding citizenship. What will be their final destination? Is it detention camp? If these refugees have to pay money to prove their Bharatiya citizenship like happened in Assam, then what is the meaning of having voting rights, Pan Card and Aadhar Card?

(Translation from Bengali to English done by Rinku M)

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