Thakurnagar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah Thursday said the process of granting Indian citizenship to refugees under the CAA, including to the Matua community of West Bengal, will begin once the process of COVID vaccination has ended.
Accusing the opposition parties of misleading the minorities about the Citizenship (amendment) Act, he said, its implementation will not impact the citizenship status of Indian minorities.
Shah said the Modi government had in 2018 promised it will bring in a new citizenship law and kept it when the BJP was voted to power in 2019.
He said, after the country was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, its implementation had to be kept in abeyance.
"Mamata didi said we made a false promise. She started opposing the CAA and saying she will never allow it. The BJP always fulfils the promises it makes. We have brought this law and refugees will get citizenship.
"As soon as the COVID vaccination process ends the process of granting citizenship under CAA will begin. All of you will be respected citizens of this country," he said, addressing a rally here in the bastion of the Matua community.
Matuas, originally from East Pakistan, are weaker section Hindus who migrated to India during the Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh. Many of them have been accorded Indian citizenship but a sizeable section of the population has not got it.
The Matua community, with an estimated population of three million in the state, can tilt the scales in favour of a political party in at least four Lok Sabha seats and more than 30 Assembly seats in Nadia, and North and South 24 Parganas districts. It once stood solidly behind the TMC but had supported the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
A section of state BJP leadership is apprehensive that the delay and confusion over the implementation of the CAA could make them turn against the saffron party.
Shah asserted that Banerjee will not be in a position to oppose the implementation of the CAA as she will cease to be the chief minister after the assembly polls likely in April-May this year.
"Mamata Didi is misleading the people on the CAA. But let me tell you that she won't be a position to oppose as she will not be the chief minister after April-May. We will implement the CAA, it is a law that has been passed by Parliament," he said.
"As the Home Minister of this country, I want to assure the minorities of India that none of you will lose citizenship. The CAA is about granting citizenship to refugees, it is not about taking away anyone's citizenship," he said.
Accusing the erstwhile Congress and the Left Front governments of West Bengal of never bothering about granting citizenship to the refugees, Shah said they betrayed them much in the same way as the TMC did.
Shah also attacked the Mamata Banerjee government over Bangladeshi infiltration, and asserted only a BJP government can stop it.
Courting the Matua community, Shah said if voted to power, the BJP government will propose renaming the Thaukurnagar railway station 'Shri Dham Thakurnagar' after Sri Sri Harichand Thakur, their socio-religious guru.
After coming to power in West Bengal, the BJP government will introduce 'Chief Minister Sharnarthi Kalyan Yojana' for the welfare of the refugee population.
Reacting to Shah's assertion about implementing the CAA, Mamata Banerjee said he should mind his language and declared she will never allow it to be enforced in West Bengal.
"The home minister of the country should be careful about his utterances. We will never allow CAA, NRC or NPR in Bengal. They can say whatever they want to. They want to destroy Bengal. We will never allow them to do that," she asserted.
The CAA, which facilitates granting of Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim minorities – Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian – of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was passed by Parliament in December 2019, triggering protests in different parts of the country. The President had given his assent to the legislation on December 12, 2019.
Under the Act, people from these communities who had come to India till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution in the three countries will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
After the CAA was passed by Parliament, widespread protests were witnessed in the country. Those opposing the CAA contend that it discriminates on the basis of religion and violates the Constitution. They also allege that the CAA along with the National Register of Citizens is intended to target the Muslim community in India.
Clashes between pro and anti-CAA groups had spiralled into communal riots in Northeast Delhi last year which had left at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.
(With PTI inputs)