From Streets to Courts, Bengali Muslims Come Together to Fight Against Citizenship (Amendment)Bill

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

After the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha too has given the final nod to the Citizenship(Amendment)Bill. The Bill is seen to be a contentious document and many from the Opposition allege that it is a tool to discriminate against and oppress the minorities. As Assam and the other north-eastern states are holding large scale protests against the CAB and calling it anti-constitutional and anti-democratic, Bengal’s Muslims too are planning to hold peaceful protests for a week starting tomorrow.

The protests are being planned by several muslim organisations and political parties along with civil society bodies operating in the state. The main agenda of these protests would be to give voice to the collective disillusionment with the CAB and to declare that such a contentious Bill would be fought against by the common citizens of Bengal both on the streets as well as in the courts. 

The state of Bengal has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, recorded at 30% of the total population of the state. The state also has 5-8% of its population as migrants from the neighbouring country Bangladesh.

The Muslim groups are vehemently against the CAB and have thus planned state wide protests against the citizenship bill starting from Friday.

The bill is seen to be contentious because it provides citizenship to all non-Muslim illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on Wednesday, two days after had been given a clearance at the Lok Sabha.

The CM of Bengal Mamata Banerjee has gone ahead and declared that she is in strong opposition of the CAB and under no circumstances will allow its provisions to be implemented in the state of Bengal. She has also asserted that she will challenge the proposed National Register of Citizens and protest against it in all possible ways.

In South Kolkata, many Muslim organisations had come together on Wednesday and finalised a week long struggle against the bill, starting from Friday onwards.

This move came while mosques and sharia help centres are working around the clock to address people’s queries and confusions about the Citizenship(Amendment)Bill and its fallout for the community. 

Kolkata has already seen major protests against the Citizenship (Amendment)Bill over the last couple of days as the bill was tabled in the Parliament.

The muslim groups of Kolkata feel that such a bill is a way to push the minorities to the margins and deny them a right to live with dignity in their own country. They have also expressed their support for Mamata Banerjee and her commitment to secular ideals.

The President of the All India Muslim Minority Forum said that they would also go ahead and write to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and urge her to stand strong against the CAB and ensure the democratic rights of the Muslims living in the state.

Commenting on the fears and anxiety expressed by the Muslim community, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in the Parliament that legal Indian muslims have nothing to worry and they would not be touched. He also asserted that the bill was aimed at the infiltrators only, while the muslim migrants who already have got citizenship under the earlier provision will not be impacted in any way. 

As the Muslims of Bengal begin their week long protests against the exclusionary character of the Citizenship (Amendment)Bill, it will be an interesting political trajectory to see how the state’s pro-secular CM Mamata Banarejee holds up the aspirations of the state’s minorities and whether or not she is able to actually deny the implementation of the provisions of the bill in West Bengal amid severe political pressure.

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