KOLKATA: Expressing concern over the exclusion of over 40 lakh people in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said those "Indian citizens have become refugees in their own land".
She also questioned the transparency of the final NRC draft, alleging that the Centre resorted to "vote bank and divide and rule policy".
The much-awaited complete NRC draft was published today amid tight security.
The list featured over 2.89 crore names out of nearly 3.29 crore applicants in Assam.
Around 40.07 lakh applicants, however, did not find a place in the document, touted to be a proof of Assamese identity.
Banerjee alleged that the exclusion of over 40 lakh people was an "attempt to evict the Bengalis from Assam".
"I am fighting for the Bengalis, Biharis and all. They are very much Indians.I am fighting for everybody," she said.
Before leaving for Delhi, Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat that she would try to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the issue.
"I will try to seek appointment with the Home Minister in Delhi and want to talk to him on the issue.I would like to appeal to him through the media to save these people and not to isolate them only for the cause of vote bank," she said.
The chief minister alleged that the Centre was trying to resort to "divide and rule and vote bank politics" keeping in mind the coming general elections.
"This is absolutely vote bank politics and election agenda. This isolation has been done keeping in mind as to who can vote for the BJP and who cannot vote for them," she allged.
Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, said the Centre can come up with a bill to protect the people who are staying in Assam for such a long time.
"The Parliament can amend the law or can bring in a new bill which can save these people," she said.
Stating that it is "very unfortunate" that those who are staying in Assam for five generations have become refugees because of the BJP government, she said, "I am sending a team of party MPs to Assam and if necessary I will go there too.
" Asked whether West Bengal would give shelter to those whose names have not appeared in the final NRC draft, she said, "They have their homes. They are inhabitants of Assam.
We will think about it if they want to come. But why should they be evicted?" "They are Indians, but they have become refugees in their own land," she said.
Banerjee claimed that names of some people who have passports, Aadhaar and voter cards have been excluded from the complete draft.
Accusing the Centre of trying to forcibly evict 40 lakh people, she said, "It is a matter of grave concern".
"The internet service has been snapped and we cannot contact people in Assam," she claimed.
On Home Minister Rajnath Singh's statement that there was no need to panic, she said, "Why then has the Centre sent 15 companies of para-military forces there?" "Has the Centre ever thought about what will happen to those people if they are pushed back? Assam has borders with Bangladesh and West Bengal. We will face problems. We must not forget that these people are not Rohingyas but very much Indian," she said.
Stating that the Centre should have held meeting with her government on the NRC, the West Bengal chief minister said, "It is a very serious issue," she said.
"The Central government neither talked to us nor the Bangladeshi government. They did not bother to talk to me, nor my chief secretary, nor the DGP, neither the administration," she said.
The TMC had opposed the NRC and its implications long back, Banerjee said, adding that the Centre and the Assam government never opposed it.
On whether she would speak to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on this issue, Banerjee said, "I cannot say anything about this.
This is a matter for the external affairs ministry or for the Indian government