The NRC is "a must" for national security and will be implemented, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared on Tuesday but made it clear that Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist refugees will be accorded Indian citizenship beforehand with the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Addressing a BJP seminar on the National Register of Citizens, which has hitherto remained confined to Assam, the party president accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party TMC of misleading the people on the issue.
The TMC has sought to project the NRC exercise in Assam as an "anti-Bengali" move after nearly 12 lakh Bengali speaking people, including a large number of Hindus, were left out of the final list of citizens published on August 31.
"People of Bengal are being misled on the issue of NRC. I am here today to clear all doubts on the BJP's stand .... Mamata Di is saying that millions of Hindus will have to leave West Bengal. There cannot be a bigger lie than this.
"I want to assure the people of Bengal NRC will be implemented but nothing of this sort is going to happen. I assure all Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain refugees they won't have to leave the country, they will get Indian citizenship and enjoy all the rights of an Indian national," Shah said in an attempt to dispel fears over the NRC in the state.
Alarmed at the possibility of the NRC being replicated in the state, people have been rushing to government and municipal offices in droves over the last few days to obtain documents that could prove West Bengal has been their place of residence for long.
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Banerjee, a strident critic of both the BJP and the NRC, has claimed 11 people have committed suicide so far out of fear of being rendered stateless in the event of the citizenship register being prepared in the state, and declared she will never allow the exercise to be undertaken in West Bengal.
Even while seeking to address the concerns of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain refugees, Shah asserted that not one infiltrator will be allowed to live in India. "We will expel each one of them," he said.
"No country in the world can run smoothly while carrying the burden of so many intruders. This has to stop. We are working towards changing Bengal. NRC is a must. We will have to implement NRC to ensure the country's safety and security," Shah said.
The BJP president recalled how Banerjee, during her days in the opposition, frequently raised the issue of illegal infiltration.
"When Mamata Di was in opposition, she asked for these intruders to be removed from Bengal. She had once thrown her shawl at the Speaker's face over that. Now that those intruders have become her vote bank, she doesn't want them to be removed. Political ambitions should not prevail over national interest," he said.
The tempestuous TMC boss was, however, measured in her response to Shah's accusations.
"Please don't create rift among people. Bengal is known to respect leaders of different faiths for ages. None can spoil that," Banerjee said at the 95 Pally Puja inuguration without naming the BJP chief.
In his speech, Shah hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for scrapping provisions of Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, saying it will facilitate complete integration of the state into India.
Referring to Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of Janasangh, the BJP's precursor, Shah said it was due to the sacrifices of the leader that West Bengal was today a part of the Indian republic.
Shah also exuded confidence that BJP would come to power in West Bengal with full majority in the next assembly elections.
"The blood of BJP workers that has been shed in Bengal will not go in vain. You've given a chance to Communists, Congress and the Trinamool Congress. Now is the time to give a chance to the BJP to form the government and change West Bengal," Shah said.