29 Jan 2024

CAA will be enforced within next seven days, says Union Minister Shantanu Thakur, what TMC said?

Union Minister Shantanu Thakur announced on Monday that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) will be enforced across the country within the next seven days. In an interview with a news channel, Thakur, a BJP MP representing Bongaon, an area with a predominant Matua community in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, expressed the intention to swiftly implement the controversial legislation.

Enacted by the BJP-led government in 2019, the CAA aims to confer Indian citizenship upon persecuted non-Muslim migrants, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014. Thakur, also a Matua community leader, asserted, "The CAA will be implemented very soon. It will be implemented within seven days. This is my guarantee."

As the union minister of state for ports, shipping, and waterways, Thakur reiterated a similar statement on Sunday and has consistently claimed that the CAA would be put into effect before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls this year.

The Matuas, constituting a significant portion of the state's Scheduled Caste population, have been migrating to West Bengal since the 1950s, mainly due to religious persecution in former East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh. Political parties in West Bengal have actively sought the support of the Matuas since the nineties, considering their substantial population and tendency to vote as a cohesive bloc, similar to the minorities.

The Matua community is anticipated to be the primary beneficiaries of the CAA's implementation. Thakur's statement on the imminent implementation of the CAA coincides with reports this month indicating that the legislation's rules will be notified "much before" the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections.

Thakur, a Member of Parliament (MP) representing Bongaon, a constituency predominantly inhabited by the Matua community, asserted that in spite of assurances from the state government, a significant number of Matua individuals have been deprived of obtaining voter IDs and Aadhaar cards.

He pointed out that the West Bengal Chief Minister had repeatedly stated that those who migrated to India after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war and possess voter IDs and Aadhaar cards are recognized as citizens. However, he highlighted the existence of thousands of people within the Matua community who have been denied voter ID cards. The MP questioned whether this denial is influenced by their affiliation with the BJP and accused the state government of pursuing a political agenda.

According to him, individuals who arrived in the country after 1971 require citizenship for the well-being of their future generations, emphasizing the necessity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). He concluded that the implementation of CAA is imperative in order to address the concerns and safeguard the citizenship rights of those who migrated post-1971.

Attempt to deceive public before LS polls: TMC

Thakur's comments have sparked strong reactions from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the state, which vehemently opposes the CAA, labeling it as "divisive."

Earlier, Shashi Panja, a senior leader of the Trinamool party and a West Bengal minister, stated, "Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has clearly stated that the implementation of CAA will not take place in Bengal. Those already citizens of Bengal do not require citizenship reassurance, being beneficiaries of various developmental schemes. The BJP is using CAA as a political tool ahead of elections."

Panja criticized Union Minister of State and BJP MP Shantanu Thakur, who had claimed that CAA would be enforced before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, stating, "This is doublespeak. His stance varies between Delhi and Bengal."

Highlighting that the law has been passed but rules are yet to be framed, she remarked, "This is an attempt to deceive the public before the Lok Sabha elections."

Thakur, a prominent Matua leader in Bengal, has long advocated for granting citizenship, a promise the BJP made during the 2021 West Bengal Assembly polls.

In response to Panja's remarks, Samik Bhattacharya, a spokesperson for the West Bengal BJP, countered, "The TMC is not focused on the country's development or national security; their interest lies solely in vote bank politics. TMC opposes CAA to cater to its vote bank politics."

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