A large section of the politically influential Matua community leaders is upset over the non-implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) despite it being passed in Parliament a year ago.
Leaders from the community, which had supported the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections of 2019, have already started to avoid rallies and meetings called by the BJP, hinting that if the BJP does not frame rules for implementation of the CAA before the May 2021 Assembly elections in the state, they could well look the other way.
Shantanu Thakur, BJP MP from Bongaon, who is also the joint president of the All India Matua Mahasangh, has been avoiding all political meetings called by the BJP. He has in a way distanced himself from the party since the last few months.
Thakur had on record said earlier that he will not be seen in any political meetings of the party unless the CAA is implemented in the state. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, sources close to Shantanu Thakur also said that he is avoiding the BJP platform for the time being since he has no answer to give to his electorate who had voted for him on the promise that he and his party had made, and that promise was the promise of permanent citizenship for these people.
However, Thakur has been organising huge rallies on the banner of the All India Matua Mahasangh across West Bengal which is seeing massive crowds being drawn from the community.
Permanent citizenship had been a long-standing demand of the Matua community in Bengal who are classified as Scheduled Caste. The people from the community are locally known as Namashudras or lower caste Hindu refugees who have migrated to India from neighbouring Bangladesh due to religious persecution.
The community, concentrated mostly in districts like North and south 24 parganas of West Bengal with also some scattered population in the districts like Cooch Behar, Uttar Dinajpur, Malda and Nadia, holds sway in around 40 Assembly constituencies in Bengal.
Out of these 40 Assembly constituencies, the BJP in the last 2019 Lok Sabha elections was leading in at least 26 of these constituencies.
To placate leaders of this community, West Bengal state observer and BJP nation general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya had met Shantanu Thakur at his residence in Thakur Nagar earlier this month.
Matua leaders from Bengal that this correspondent spoke to said that they were unhappy that despite the law being passed for the last one year, it could not be implemented in the state.
However, when The Sunday Guardian contacted Shantanu Thakur for an official comment on the story, he declined to comment on this matter.
The state BJP leadership, on the other hand, has said that the party is committed to implementation of the CAA in the state and that it will be done in due course of time.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told The Sunday Guardian, “For the first time after 75 years of Independence, such a huge amendment in the Citizenship Act has been done, which shows that the BJP is committed to implementation of the CAA and the party will fulfil its commitment. But since it’s a legal matter, rules cannot be framed unless all the legal decks are cleared and I am sure the government is working in this direction. Moreover, it is also getting delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. The implementation of the CAA will be a massive task and at this time, we cannot let people queue up and execute such a massive programme at a mass level.”
Asked if rules are likely to be framed before the elections, Ghosh said, “I cannot give a specific deadline as to when it will be implemented. The Home Ministry is looking into it, they will be in a better position to answer that.”