KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday faced protests by Left students for meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and allegedly "diluting the fight against CAA".
The Left students were protesting against her meeting Modi at the Raj Bhavan here and sharing the stage with the prime minister at a function later in the evening on the first day of his two-day visit to the state.
They lanched a dharna at the Dorina Crossing at Esplanade and said it would continue as long as the prime minister is in the state.
Members of SFI, AISA, IC of Presidency University students unions chanting 'Azadi' and 'Shame Shame' broke three barricades put up near the stage of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad's (TMCP) sit-in at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, not far from the Raj Bhavan, and demanded explanation from Banerjee as she rushed from a programme attended by Modi to the venue.
They wanted to know why Banerjee met the PM, who, they said, is behind the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens and "diluted the fight" against it.
"We were heading towards the Raj Bhavan. But we were prevented from doing so by the police near TMCP's dharna site on nearby Rani Rashmoni Avenue. When the CM arrived, we demanded an explanation from her," Subho Biswas, a student of Presidency University, claimed.
An SFI leader Tapas Das said the protests would go on as long as Modi was in the city on Sunday.
"We demanded an explanation from Mamata Banerjee about her meeting the prime minister at the Raj Bhavan and sharing the stage at an official programme. There is a secret understanding between Mamata Banerjee and Modi. She has been exposed."
"We will sit on dharna at the Esplanade crossing till the prime minister leaves the city tomorrow," he said.
Banerjee, who was seen arguing with Left students, sought to clarify her stand and said it was her "constitutional obligation to meet the PM".
"I am the only leader who met Narendra Modi and told him that the CAA, NRC and NPR cannot be implemented. We have been protesting from day one against CAA. The issue before both of us (TMCP and Left students' unions) is the same, so please don't deviate from it.
"I request you all to protest in a democratic way. We should fight the anti-CAA battle together. We are fighting on the same issue," she told the Left students unions.
She also asked the TMCP students, who were separated by a barricade put up by police, to remain calm and not retaliate.
Banerjee was seen sitting on the dais surrounded by security guards and TMCP students raised counter slogans chanting 'Bande Mataram' and 'Down with BJP and its cohorts'.
A senior Kolkata Police Police officer said Banerjee is still present at the sit-in venue and officers and extra policemen are present there.
"We are alert," he added.
Banerjee termed her meeting with PM Modi as a "courtesy visit" and said she has raised issues regarding the due financial assistance that the state is yet to receive from the Centre.
"It was a courtesy meeting. I told him about Rs 28,000 crore that the state is yet to receive from the Centre. Including Rs 7000 crore, we are supposed to get for the cyclone Fani.
"I acquainted him that we are against CAA, NPR and NRC. I also told him that protest is going on across the country against CAA, NRC and NPR."
"I told him that there should not be any discrimination among masses and no citizens should be left out or tortured. I asked him that the Centre should rethink on the issues and withdraw CAA," she said.
When asked what PM Modi said in reply, the TMC supremo said, "regarding the matter related to states, he said he will look into the documents and about these issues (CAA, NRC and NPR), he said he has come for a few government programmes. So if there is an opportunity he would speak on the subjects in New Delhi".
The meeting assumes significance as the new citizenship law has emerged as the latest flashpoint in the state.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress is opposing the contentious legislation tooth and nail and the BJP is pressing for its implementation.
The meeting between the two leaders comes just two days after Banerjee had on Thursday said in the state Assembly that she would boycott an opposition meeting called by Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on January 13 over the JNU violence, the Citizenship Amendment Act and other "anti-people" policies of the Centre.
Later while addressing party's anti-CAA rally at Rani Rashmoni Road, Banerjee referring to the gazette notification by the Union Home ministry regarding CAA, said the notification will be only on paper, it will never be implemented either in the country or in Bengal.
"The CAA notification will only remain on paper but will never be implemented. We will not implement the CAA. This is unconstitutional, illegal and wrong," Banerjee said while addressing the rally.
The Centre on Friday, in a gazette notification, announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will come into force from January 10.
She said those who are in power at the centre should not do whatever they feel like just because they have the majority (in Parliament).
"Those who are yet to understand the situation must wake up now. There is no point in sleeping while keeping your eyes open," she said at the rally.
The meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Banerjee drew sharp reactions from Congress and CPI(M), which said Trinamool Congress' "double standard" is now exposed.
"Mamata Banerjee and TMC are now exposed. We have been saying this for a long time that TMC is a B Team of BJP in Bengal."
"Now it has been proved. She doesn't want to fight BJP, rather she is helping the saffron camp in the state. This match-fixing is going on between both the parties," CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim said.
West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra too echoed Salim's views and said people of the state would "give a befitting reply to Banerjee for betraying their trust".
The Trinamool Congress leadership refuted claims of "political match-fixing" and said the meeting between the two leaders was just a government-to-government meeting.
"Let's get this straight. Today's meeting is government-to-government. And Trinamool Congress don't need certificates from anyone. We started this movement & now it is a peoples movement."
"How many processions have you walked in? How many protests have you led? Stop giving advice sitting on a sofa," TMC leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O' Brien said in a statement hitting out at the rivals.