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Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has termed the exclusion of some 40-lakh people from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam a deliberate attempt on the part of the BJP led-government to drive out the Bengalis and Biharis for electoral gains.

Calling the situation in Assam as “extremely terrible,” Banerjee has cautioned the Central government not to “play with the fire.” She has expressed her fears that if Bengalis and Biharis are harassed in Assam, there could be retaliation in the rest of the country.

“With the single stroke of a pen, 40-lakh Indians have become refugees in their own country because of the Assam and the India government. This is a terrible situation and people are helpless. We are not even able to communicate with the people there as communication lines have been severed,” the Bengal Chief Minister has told a news conference at Nabanna in Kolkata this afternoon.

Banerjee has alleged that dropping so many names from the NRC is a plot on the part of the BJP led governments in Assam and the Centre to divide and rule.

“This is their game plan. Forceful eviction of humans and humanity: a total destruction has been planned. Because of election politics, unnecessary provocation has been created. Union home minister is saying there is no reason to panic. If this is the case, why so many Central troops have been deployed and communication lines severed?” she has asked.

Terming the move as “Bengali and Bihari khedao (drive out)” she alleged that surnames of Bengali and those similar to them were singled out and the names dropped. “Names of those Bengalis and Biharis living there for over 100 years have not been included in the NRC.”

The Chief Minister said that when the Supreme Court ordered the update of the NRC, neither Assam nor India government filed an appeal.

“Bengal being a border to Assam, we could foresee the destabilisation it will create and hence we had appealed against this. But we were left isolated as the Assam and the Central government kept mum. They have allowed this to happen by maintaining a studied silence.”

The Bengal CM has said that despite Bengal being contiguous to Assam, the Centre never consulted it before taking such a major step. “We are extremely worried because Assam trying to drive out Indian citizens will create massive trouble for Bengal and Bangladesh. Now, the Centre is approaching us to tackle the situation!”

Banerjee said that she has sought time from the Union home minister Rajnath Singh to raise the matter with him in Delhi and is also sending a delegation of Trinamool MPs to Assam to assess the situation. The CM said that if the situation permits she too has plans to visit Assam.

“I appeal the Centre through the Press, please save these people. They are human beings, don’t isolate them and don’t play with the fire. The Centre can still save the situation: the Parliament is in session, if required bring a Bill and save these people.”

Asked by a reporter what will Bengal do if people driven out by Assam in view of the NRC try to take shelter here, the Chief Minister said that her government will stand by them.

“We cannot behave like the Centre or Assam and force out these people. These people are very much Indians who have been turned into refugees by the BJP government. How can ask an India to leave my state? We will stand by them,” she said.