New Delhi: Hundreds of people have started queueing up at government and municipal offices across West Bengal to collect birth certificates and necessary documents, as panic over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) continued to rise among residents of the state. Several suicides across the state have been attributed to this fear by the families of the victims. According to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, there have been as many as 11 deaths in the state caused by the fear of NRC, despite the state government’s assurances that it will not be allowed to be implemented in the state. A few of the victims allegedly killed themselves after failing to procure old documents, while others died after falling ill while standing in queues.
One reason for the panic is the NRC in Assam, which turned out to be a disaster, as it ended up excluding over 19 lakh people from the final list.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said while addressing a gathering on Wednesday, that NRC will be implemented in West Bengal, but not a single Hindu will have to leave the country. He said, “India is not a charity house that those who are the majority community in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan can just infiltrate, spread terror and take away the livelihood of our citizens.”
Earlier this week, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh had said, “We are bringing the Citizenship Bill, we will need to discuss it with people. Mamata Banerjee could not stop the abrogation of Article 370, demonetisation, and the passage of triple talaq Bill. In the same way, we are bringing NRC and she will not be able to stop us this time as well.”
Statements like these from BJP leaders have caused panic among the people of the state, sending them scrambling to get documents or get errors in old ones rectified. Over the past few days, queues of people have started forming at offices of Block Development Officers (BDOs), borough offices, and civic body offices. People are trying to acquire any and all documents that will help them prove that they are residents of West Bengal, if and when NRC is implemented in the state.
Huge queues have started forming at the office of West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) situated in Park Street, Kolkata, as people from all across the state try to acquire their matriculation certificates from as long as five decades ago. Some people are trying to get their names rectified on old school final certificates, while others are looking for a duplicate copy of their certificate. The environment is that of panic and fear, as people discuss the impending doom in hushed tones.
The employees of WBBSE are struggling to keep up with the workload as the number of people thronging the office is swelling with every passing day. The sanctioned number of posts for the Board is 780. However, out of these, 350 posts remain vacant, doubling the workload on the remaining employees.
Hundreds of people are also queuing up to apply for ration cards to rectify names or addresses on the cards, and to acquire their birth certificates or death certificates of their parents or guardians. Everyone wants to be prepared with all the documents if and when the verification process starts.
The NRC has also become a political issue in West Bengal, with BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress training guns at each other, and the Left parties cautioning people against rising communal polarisation in the state.
At a public meeting in Siuri, Communist Party of India (Marxist) polit bureau member, Mohd Salim said, “Citizenship does not depend on any religion, language, and support for a political party. Everyone who was born in this country, or has spent their lives in the country, is a citizen of the country. Those who want to implement NRC in West Bengal, are looking at humans as only voters. We will fight till our last breath to make sure that not a single person has to leave the country.”