Speaking at a public meeting at Amadpur in Birbhum district of Bengal on Wednesday, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the updating of the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was a “conspiracy” to expel Bengalis from the State. She warned the ruling BJP that she would not keep quiet if Bengalis were victimized. Coming just three days after the first part of the updated NRC was published in the midnight of December 31, 2017, Mamata Banerjee’s statement was a clear attempt to bring about commul disharmony in the State over an exercise clearly directed at identifying Indian citizens living in Assam. There can be no doubt that when Mamata spoke of Bengalis she had in mind those who spoke Bangla without any regard for their tiolities. She obviously had in mind the millions of migrants from Bangladesh whose mother tongue is Bangla and not the Indian Bengalis. Her mischievous intent was to confuse people into thinking that she was talking about all Bengalis including those who are Indian citizens. This is the kind of confusion and mischief that can be created wherever a particular language is spoken by people of different tiolities. It is therefore possible for a mischievous politician to talk about a conspiracy to expel French people from France when the truth is that he is possibly speaking about French-speaking Belgians in France whose language too is French. The same kind of mischief can be played by someone in referring to Austrians (whose mother tongue is German) being threatened with expulsion from Germany. One can think of several more examples. For instance, any crafty politician can choose to talk about Cadians being threatened in the United States though both Cadians and Americans speak English. One can think of a similar situation in North Korea where allegations of someone conspiring to expel South Koreans can be made even though people of the two countries speak the same language. Nearer home, similar allegations could have been made about conspiracies to expel Pakistani Punjabis from Punjab in India if India’s border with Pakistan was not completelysealed. There are two facts of life that Mamata Banerjee is pretending to have forgotten. One is that in many parts of the world the same language is spoken in two neighbouring countries. This does not affect the tiol identities of the speakers. Nor is it fair to pretend that just because someone speaks a language which is also spoken in our country, that person has to be treated as an Indian tiol. The other fact of life is that over the years parts of some countries have broken away from the parent country thereby creating new geographical and political identities. Bangladesh is one such interesting example. The Bangladesh of today was once a part of India. With the partition of India that created Pakistan, it became East Pakistan—part of a country with two locations separated by the Indian subcontinent. After tolerating the hegemony of West Pakistan for some years, the people of East Pakistan chose to break away from Pakistan and form a new country. The two motivating factors that stoked the desire to break away from West Pakistan were language and culture. In fact, the West Pakistani hegemony hastened the breaking up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh. And the creation of Bangladesh was achieved with a great deal of help from India. We also have other parts of India that broke away to become independent countries. One is Burma that is now known as Myanmar, and the other is Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.
It is only tural that there should be anger and resentment at the kind of mischief that Mamata Banerjee is trying to play with the people of Assam. She is trying to pretend that everyone in Assam who speaks Bangla is an Indian Bengali and must on no account be expelled from any part of the country. She pretends that she is not aware of the true identity of the Bengalis that she is referring to. When she talks about the BJP-led Central government “hatching a conspiracy” to drive out Bengalis from Assam by “excluding” their mes from the first draft of the NRC, or the “conspiracy to drive out around 1.8 crore people” from Assam, she is fully aware that she is actually talking about illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are in our State. But it is far more profitable for her (in electoral terms) to be just talking about Bengalis and pretending that they are really Indians because she can extend the same pretence to Bengal and the give the illegal migrants from Bangladesh in that State voting rights. We have no reasons to be unduly worried about how the Chief Minister of some other State violates the provisions of the Constitution in her own State, but we cannot have such persons meddling in the affairs of another State in order to bring about a demographic change in that State according to her liking. It is, therefore, heartening to learn that on Thursday three FIRs were lodged against Mamata Banerjee for seeking to create enmity among the communities of Assam. Sunil Kalita, officer-in-charge of Latasil police station said that they have lodged case 4/2018 under Section 153A of the IPC based on two of the FIRs. The purpose of Section 153A is to punish persons who promote enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and do acts prejudicial to the maintence of harmony. The other heartening development is the stand of the organizations and associations of Bengali citizens of Assam that have condemned the dastardly attempt of Mamata Banerjee to stoke commul strife in a State where different communities have always lived in harmony. They have condemned Mamata Banerjee’s commul remarks and have told her that there is no need for her to worry about the Bengalis of Assam. She and her supporter Sushmita Dev, MP, must learn to heed the warnings of the people and to refrain from actions that amount to contempt of the Supreme Court.