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CAA will be implemented after Covid vaccine exercise: Amit Shah

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on February 11, 2021

Home Minister Amit Shah   -  PTI

Rules to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will be framed and the Act implemented once the Covid vaccination procedure is over, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, said on Thursday as he sought to placate the Matua community ahead of Assembly elections in West Bengal; and assured them of “permanent Indian citizenship”.

The Union Minister also promised welfare schemes specifically targeting the community that include pension for religious leaders (of the sect); renaming of the local rail station to highlight its historical significance; student scholarship schemes and so on.

According to Shah, the BJP promised amendments to the Citizenship Act in 2018 and kept its promise once it came to power a year later. However, Covid-19 outbreak delayed framing of rules.

“The delay in framing CAA rules because of Covid-19 meant opposition leaders including Mamata-ji (Banerjee) went all out in claiming that the BJP was not implementing Citizenship Amendment Act. Let me tell you, we will honour our commitments, bring in the CAA. It will be a reality. We will ensure citizenship for the Matuas. Give them the respect they deserve. First let the vaccination process be complete; then we will frame rules and implement CAA,” he said addressing the members of the community.

“I assure no Muslim will lose their citizenship. No one will lose any citizenship. Rather it will grant citizenship and respect,” Shah added.

Why the Matuas

The Matuas – who came in to Bengal during partition – have been visibly agitated over the delay in roll-out of CAA provisions. An electorally significant Hindu minority sect who became part of the state’s politics over the years, the Matuas play a deciding factor in 40-45 seats. The sect now has a BJP camp and Trinamool Congress camp; with the former making up for a significant part.

The refugee community has voting rights and Aadhaar cards, but has been demanding permanent citizenship. Community leaders claim that a 2003 amendment to the Citizenship Act made it impossible for children born in refugee families to become Indian citizens by birth, if either of their parents is deemed to be an illegal migrant. The current CAA is supposed to address these concerns.

“Our Chief Minister will ensure all round development of the community. Be is scholarship programs or having a tourist circuit or other welfare schemes, we will implement them once in power in Bengal. The CAA will give Matuas their permanent citizenship and we will also stop illegal immigrants,” the Union Home Minister promised mentioning that welfare scheme for refugees were being planned.

Wooing Rajbongshis

Earlier in the day, Shah announced at least ₹750 crore worth of welfare initiatives for the Koch-Rajbongshi community, primarily inhabiting the northern regions of Bengal, Assam, among others.

The community wields considerable influence in north Bengal districts, where the BJP’s growing influence has put the Trinamool Congress on the backfoot. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too has been going all out to woo the Rajbongshis, Gorkhas and other hill tribes in the region as she seeks to regain lost ground.

As per the 2001 Census, the Rajbongshi language is spoken by nearly one crore people across North Bengal regions (like Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri , Darjeeling, Malda and Murshidabad), apart from neighboring states of Assam and Bihar.

Shah’s major announcement was setting up of the “Narayani Sena” battalion in the para-military forces, an emotive and long standing demand of the community. The Narayani Sena was the armed troops of the erstwhile princely state of Cooch Behar.

The Union Home Minister met Ananta Rai ‘Maharaj’, self-proclaimed king of the Cooch Behar and descendent of the royal Koch-Rajbongshi family. Rai is said to have considerable support-base in the community.

“North Bengal will be developed like a flagship. Brave Rajbonshis will be given their due. There will be a cultural centre at ₹500 crore; a memorial for Panchanan Verma (a reformist Rajbongshi leader) at an estimated ₹250 crore; a tourist circuit focusing on the history and important landmarks of the region; along with jobs. A clear road-map will be laid out in the election manifesto,” Shah said during the rally.

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Published on February 11, 2021
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