Matuas welcome CAA rules; Mamata questions timing

Will oppose it fiercely if the rules are found to be discriminatory, says Chief Minister

March 11, 2024 10:20 pm | Updated March 12, 2024 08:23 am IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference at Nabanna, in Howrah, on March 11, 2024

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference at Nabanna, in Howrah, on March 11, 2024 | Photo Credit: PTI

There were celebrations among a section of the Matua community in West Bengal when the Union government notified the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, on March 11 even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned of fierce opposition if the rules are found to be discriminatory against groups of people living in India.

There were celebrations at Thakurbari, the headquarters of All India Matua Mahasangha, at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district, and also in other parts of State, including at Chinsurah in Hooghly and  Siliguri in north Bengal.

Many in the Matua sect — a community comprising Hindu Namasudras — had migrated from Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan). They had been demanding that the rules relating to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed in 2019 be framed at the earliest.. 

The newly framed rules allow any person eligible under CAA-2019 to apply for Indian citizenship. Those eligible can file an application under Section 6B of the CAA-2019 through an online portal. 

Click here to know more about CAA

The CAA passed in 2019 grants citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. 

The notification by the Centre also comes on March 11, which is the birth anniversary of Harichand Thakur, one of the founders of the Matua sect, who was born in 1812 at Orakandi, now in Bangladesh. 

Welcoming the development, BJP State president Sukanta Majumdar said none had a problem with the rules except Ms. Banerjee who had lost her sleep over the development. “Union Home Minister Amit Shah had already said that we will put forward the rules and regulations of the CAA before the Lok Sabha election and we do whatever we say,” the BJP leader said.

Why now, asks Mamata

The Chief Minister, who spoke hours before the rules were made public, questioned the timing of their notification ahead of the Lok Sabha poll. “Why do this only days before the Lok Sabha poll is scheduled to be announced? Why did the Centre have to wait for four years to notify the law after it was passed in Parliament?” she asked. Ms. Banerjee went on to emphasise that she will not allow “any detention camps or NRC (National Register of Citizens)“ in the State.

The Chief Minister also asked if “the new CAA rules would make the previous entitlements of our citizens invalid. Will the documents they hold lose value now?”

The Trinamool Congress chairperson described the framing of rules as a “show-off” and akin to “offering a lollipop to a kid”. 

Poll promise

The BJP had won the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat in 2019 – a Matua stronghold – on the promise of CAA implementation.

The delay in implementation of the rules had been making the Matua community restive, and leaders, including MLAs, had been issuing warnings that unless the rules were framed, the community would not support the BJP.

Bongaon BJP MP Santanu Thakur described Monday’s development as historic and thanked the Union government for issuing the notification.

While Matuas welcomed the development and BJP leaders claim the development is inclusive, political observers point that the Trinamool Congress will raise the CAA as being ‘discriminatory’ against Muslims and launch a campaign on these lines. While Matuas may have influence in certain Lok Sabha seats across south Bengal, Muslims who comprise 27.01 % of the State’s population have supported the Trinamool Congress over the past several elections.

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