There is brinkmanship being played out on the illegal immigrants issue a few months short of the Lok Sabha elections, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatening a ‘civil war’ and a ‘bloodbath’ and BJP president Amit Shah talking of weeding out the (Bangladeshi) infiltrators even before the final date for reviewing the cases is over and calling all prime ministers after Rajiv Gandhi cowards for not acting against them.
The latest salvo has been fired by Mamata calling the ‘detention’ or confinement at the Silchar airport in Assam of an eight-member delegation from West Bengal and their alleged manhandling by local police as a “super emergency.”
Temperance is not a quality of either Mamata or Amit Shah, but the damage that they are causing to the country’s body politic is frightening. That one member of the TMC delegation alleged he was hit on the chest and some others said their cellphones were snatched while others had other tales to tell was nerve-racking but one cannot put it past TMC members to exaggerate their plight at the Silchar airport taking a cue from their chief minister.
That while tempers run high in West Bengal on the National Register of Citizens report which has found 40 lakh people in Assam illegal immigrants in principle (subject to filing of objections and review), the Trinamool chief and two others have quit TMC to protest Mamata’s opposition to the ‘final draft’ of the NRC.
The West Bengal TMC couldn’t care less for multitudes in Assam being found illegal but it anticipates that the next NRC report will be on West Bengal where immigrant Muslims would meet the same fate and the TMC whose vote bank they are will be at the receiving end.
The partisan politics being played and the preponderance of vote bank considerations have made a mockery of what seems to be a worthy report prepared at the instance of the Supreme Court.
The issue could be sorted out but when important functionaries like Mamata and Amit Shah pre-judge the issue and take extreme positions what can one say about the mobs who think nothing of going berserk on emotive issues.
The Congress is as usual, walking the tight rope. It is common knowledge that the influx of Bangladeshis would not have happened on the scale on which it did over the years had the Congress party then at the helm at the Centre and in Assam not acquiesced in the influx with an eye on that vote bank.
Now, the party is walking the tight rope when it says that it is not against NRC but that Indians should not be displaced under the garb of punishing foreign infiltrators.
As irony would have it, while Parliament which should be discussing this sensitive issue threadbare is engaged in boycotts and mayhem, there is not a thought on law and order being protected in the two states.
What could have happened if the West Bengal delegation members had reached the venue of the meeting on the NRC report and delivered incendiary speeches which may well have incited violence by Assam mobs that were supporting the issue of identifying illegal immigrants?
In the circumstances, was it wrong for the Assam government to have prevented what could have developed into an ugly spat?
Likewise, if a pro-NRC delegation of Assam legislators were to visit West Bengal and wax eloquent on the ‘excesses’ committed by the NRC in identification of illegals, could there not have been a riot in Kolkata?
This is no occasion for brinkmanship for exploiting the sentiments of the local populace in both states. It is time for both the Assam and West Bengal governments to exercise caution and to defuse any possible tension.
The BJP on its part must keep off fishing in troubled waters while the situation in Assam and West Bengal is sensitive.