Defying Governor Jagdeep Dharnkhar’s orders, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday spearheaded a mega rally in Kolkata against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Mamata also administered a pledge to the people not to allow any NRC exercise and implementation of the controversial citizenship law in the state.
“We are all citizens. Our ideal is harmony of all religions. We won’t let anyone leave Bengal. We will live in peace and free of anxiety. We won’t allow NRC and CAA in Bengal. We have to maintain peace,” read the pledge.
Banerjee said though the rally has been called by the Trinamool, all were welcome as “when the country passes through danger, one has to take everybody along”.
“We have assembled before Ambedkar’s statue because he drafted our Constitution which is now in danger. We respect the Constitution. We will walk for a united, sovereign and secular India.
“Bengal stands united to keep a united India. No NRC, no CAA, we want peace. This is our slogan. Through a democratic and peaceful movement, we will join the protests articulated by people across the country,” she said to tumultuous applause.
Banerjee was at the forefront of the march followed by some eminent persons and religious leaders in a semi-circle as hundreds of security persons kept a close watch to prevent any untoward incident.
Cautioning the assembled masses, she warned them of the “BJP and its many players who may try to enter the march and create disturbances”.
The chief minister further appealed to her counterparts from other states to join her in opposing the Citizenship Act. She also appealed to the people not to resort to violence during protests.
Sports and cultural personalities, educationists and other civil society members were part of the march which increased in size with every minute after starting from the base of BR Ambedkar’s statue on Indira Gandhi Sarani (erstwhile Red Road).
Addressing the rally, Mamata alleged that a few people took money from BJP and indulged in vandalism and arson in West Bengal.
The chief minister was referring violent protests against the amended Citizenship Act that spread across West Bengal on Saturday.
Resorting to violence, protesters torched several railway stations, obstructed the National highway at Beldanga by burning tyres and damaging vehicles, including an ambulance.
The Howrah-Coromondol Express and the Howrah-Digha Kandari Express were damaged in the attack.
Besides West Bengal, the northeastern region, especially the states of Assam, Tripura and now Meghalaya, have witnessed widespread violent protests against the CAA.
According to the Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.