Barasat / Siliguri: A protest has broken out in West Bengal over some 40-lakh odd people, most of them Bengalis, being excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
This is even as the Bengalis in Assam are sticking on to a wait and watch policy despite the massive agony over the issue.
People in the south Bengal districts of North 24-Parganas, Hooghly, and Nadia today staged a rail blockade in as many as 27 stations choking train movements all over the Sealdah rail division.
In north Bengal, All India Namashudra Bikash Parishad ~ an organisation of the scheduled caste Bengalis ~ has convened a mass convention in Siliguri on 22 August against the exclusion of the names of Bengalis in Assam NRC and has threatened an indefinite blockade on all roads and railway routes leading to Assam from 27 August.
The rail blockade in south Bengal today started at Sandaliya station in North 24-Parganas at 7.45 am and spread to other stations in phases till 12.10 pm.
Led by Matua Mahasangha ~ a religious organisation of Bengali Hindus who settled down in West Bengal after the Partition of India in 1947 ~ the blockade took place at New Barrackpore, Gobardanga, Dum Dum, Belghoria, Ichhapur, Kanchrapara, Halisahar, Bira, Naihati, Titagarh, Palta, Baranagar, Sodepur, Machlandapur, Habra, Ashoknagar, Bamangachi, Barrackpore, Badkulla, Bongaon, Thakurnagar, Dankuni (Hooghly), Ranaghat and Chakdah (Nadia).
Hundreds of people stood on the railway tracks at these stations shouting anti-BJP slogans for allegedly conspiring to flush out Bengalis from Assam on the pretext of updating NRC. Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh’s comment that Assam-like NRC exercise will be initiated in Bengal if the saffron party comes to power here added fuel to the anger.
A leader of the Matua Mahasangha, who was at the blockade at Thakurnagar said that among the 40-lakh odd people excluded from the NRC draft, there are at least 4-5-lakh who belong to the Matua sect and hence, they feel it duty bound to rise in protest.
The blockade paralysed train services on Sealdah – Ranaghat Main Line, Sealdah-Bongaon, Sealdah-Dankuni, and Barasat-Hansnabad routes. Eastern Railway has said in a statement that a result of this, 51 EMU local trains had to be cancelled, while several other trains were stranded en route for hours.
Trinamool leader and state food minister Jyotipriya Mullick, who is an advisor to Matua Mahasangha, has said that the organisation will wait for three days for the Central government to come up with some corrective measures on NRC. If that does not happen, they will launch an intensified agitation all over Bengal.