Kolkata: Following the recent 11 unnatural deaths in West Bengal, which have been claimed by many, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as deaths caused by National Register of Citizenship (NRC) fear, made her issue a series of advertisements on various media platforms. But her efforts aren’t being able to soothe the jittery nerves of voters in the state.
An advertisement that appeared in some leading dailies stated that voters need not fear as NRC won’t be implemented in West Bengal. “Census is a routine exercise that takes place every 10 years and that digital ration card is not inter-linked with NRC,” the advertisement clearly stated.
However, social activists working at the ground level feel that the advertisements and announcements made by the CM have not been effective in quelling fear in the common man. “Having seen the kind of a crazy situation witnessed in Assam, the voters here are in no mood to take a chance. Precisely, this is the reason that we are witnessing a huge footfall at our camps that we are running to assist people with the online verification of voter programme of the Election Commission,” said Syed Imitiaz Hussain, member of Nagrik Seva Kendra, a socially active group which is helping people like daily wage workers or people with limited digital literacy to verify or correct information for Election Commission’s Online Verification Process, which officials claim is a regular pre-electoral revision process.
He further stated, “One can’t rule out the fear factor, which is making many approach people who can help them get their voter details corrected online. Wherever we have been visiting with our volunteers to have voters get their details corrected online, we have been questioned about NRC and if this exercise is related to it. We have tried to explain that this exercise and NRC are not inter-related, but they should work on having their documents in place.”
Adding to that, social activist Moutali Nag Sarkar said, “We, as volunteers, have witnessed Muslim families queuing up outside officially designated kiosks for this online verification process in sub-urban and remote areas. The fear of an NRC-like exercise is making them do so. But what is the ruling government doing to ease their panic? I don’t think that the advertisements of the CM asking people to not panic have worked.”
Sarkar, while explaining the chaos-like situation in Bengal, said, “Why isn’t the state administration being more helpful to such people? Why are they not conducting mass campaigns to rule out rumours related to NRC doing the rounds? Till all this is done, the panic, which is continuously being fanned by RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) members by stating that NRC-like process is inevitable in Bengal, will only be on the rise.” She further asked, “Why has the state government not announced compensation for the families of the NRC-related suicide victims?”
Talking about the public interest advertisement issued by Mamata Banerjee’s government in Bengal, Prasenjit Bose, Kolkata-based economist and social activist, said, “There is a huge confusion between the National Population Register and Census programme. NPR, about which every state government has been notified in July 2019, is to be completed by September 2020 is governed by different facts and directives, which have been decided in accordance with sub-rule (4) of rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, which was passed by the Vajpayee government.”
Hussain, while responding to this, said, “There is huge confusion about this. We believe that the state government might consider NPR as the regular census programme but we are assuming that it will form the basis of NRC-like implementation across India.”
Bose added, “We have been demanding for the government to revoke this notification for NPR implementation. If the CM is not supporting NRC then she should also ask for the revoking of the notification issued by the Centre to have NPR process completed by September 2020 across India.”