The Assam Police on Thursday registered an FIR against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on complaints over her allegation that the Centre was conspiring to drive Bengalis out of Assam with the state's National Register of Citizens (NRC) that is being updated.
The police FIR sparked an angry response from the Trinamool Congress(TMC) which said such an action would not stop her from fighting for the cause of the Bengalis while the BJP accused Banerjee of trying to make an "issue out of an non-issue" for reaping political dividends.
Numerous groups staged protests across Assam condemning the statement by the TMC chief. At several places, including in Tinsukia and Biswanath, Banerjee's effigies were burnt.
At a meeting in Ahmedpur in West Bengal on Wednesday, Banerjee accused the NDA government at the Centre of "hatching a conspiracy" to drive out Bengalis from Assam by "excluding" their names from the first draft of the NRC, which was published on the midnight of December 31.
"I warn the BJP government at the Centre not to play with fire... This is a conspiracy of the Centre to drive out around 1.80 crore people from the state," she had said. The NRC of 1951 is being updated in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court to identify original residents of the state in order to check illegal migration.
Deputy Commissioner (Central) of Guwahati Police Ranjan Bhuyan told PTI, "Latasil police station received a complaint regarding an alleged speech of the West Bengal chief minister. We have registered the complaint and will carry out the investigation as per law."
The complaint was filed by Gauhati High Court advocate Tailendra Nath Das and the police have registered an FIR under Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code, he added.
The section pertains to promoting enmity among groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
Das also accused Banerjee of contempt of the apex court as the update of the NRC is being done under the direct the supervision of the Supreme Court.
A similar complaint was filed by another person and it would be merged with the registered FIR, the police said.
Yet another complaint was filed at the Dispur police station in the city by Krishak Shramik Unnayan Parishad President Pradeep Kalita alleging that the chief minister was spreading enmity between people through her speech.
"We have received the complaint at Dispur, but have not registered a case as yet...The police are looking into the matter before registering a case as the place of occurrence is outside the state," said Deputy Commissioner(East) of Guwahati Police Mohneesh Mishra.
Assam government spokesperson and cabinet minister Chandra Mohan Patowary termed her speech against the NRC update as "politically motivated" and made to "appease her vote bank".
"We condemn the statement of Mamata Banerjee. It is derogatory and insulting to people of Assam. It is against the Constitution and the spirit of the Supreme Court," Patowary told a press conference in Guwahati.
Responding to Banerjee's allegation of a conspiracy to drive Bengali speaking people out of Assam, Patowary asked her to submit evidence to the Supreme Court.
TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said if the BJP and Assam government think that they can stop the party and Banerjee from fighting for the cause of Muslims then they are living in a "fool's paradise".
"Such police cases and FIRs won't be able to stop Mamata Banerjee and TMC from fighting for the cause of Bengalis. We have seen such tactics to drive out Bengalis from Assam. If the Bengalis are in danger then Mamata Banerjee and TMC won't sit idle," said Chatterjee, who is also the state parliamentary affairs minister.
The West Bengal BJP unit slammed Banerjee for her statement.
"The allegations made by the chief minister are completely baseless. Nothing of that sort is being done. Such allegations are made just to get political dividends out of it," its president Dilip Ghosh said.
The TMC is trying to make an issue out of a non-issue, just like they had done in the case of demonetisation and GST, Ghosh said.
Assam BJP unit urged the NRC authorities to file a complaint in the Supreme Court against Banerjee for her comments.
Another senior state BJP leader, who did not want to be identified, said that Banerjee instead of making a hue and cry should take lessons from Assam.
"We very well know that West Bengal has turned into a safe haven for Jihadis under TMC regime. So instead of shouting over the NRC, the TMC should take lessons from it," the BJP leader said.