CAA ensures Matuas' legal citizenship, protects against future NRC: Union Minister Shantanu Thakur

Union Minister and Matua leader Shantanu Thakur supports the CAA to grant legal citizenship to the Matua community. He believes this will prevent them from being categorized as foreigners in a potential NRC exercise in the future. Thakur emphasizes the importance of the CAA for protecting the rights of persecuted non-Muslim migrants.

PTI | Kolkata | Updated: 06-04-2024 10:42 IST | Created: 06-04-2024 10:42 IST
CAA ensures Matuas' legal citizenship, protects against future NRC: Union Minister Shantanu Thakur
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Union Minister and Matua leader Shantanu Thakur believes that the CAA will safeguard those belonging to the community by granting them ''legal citizenship'', thus preventing them from being labelled as foreigners in the event of ''a potential NRC exercise in the next 100 years''.

In an interview with PTI, Thakur sought to alleviate confusion among the Matuas regarding the submission of applications for citizenship under the CAA and asserted that ''no documents proving previous residential addresses in Bangladesh are mandatory, with certificates from community organisations being sufficient''.

Thakur, who is seeking re-nomination on a BJP ticket from the Matua-majority Bongaon Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, emphasised that without the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act, none of the opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, would be capable of safeguarding the Matuas in the event of an NRC exercise in a century from now.

''This Citizenship Amendment Act will provide the Matuas with legal and constitutional citizenship, ensuring that they cannot be deported from the country, like infiltrators, in the event of an NRC exercise in the next 100 years. The new citizenship Act will offer constitutional protection to the Matuas.'' Thakur told PTI.

The Matuas, originally from East Pakistan, are a weaker section of Hindus who migrated to India during the Partition and after the creation of Bangladesh following religious persecution.

Thakur expressed concern that without the protection offered by the CAA, the Matuas could face expulsion, drawing parallels with the Rohingyas of Myanmar, who have been denied citizenship for centuries.

''In the absence of CAA, these Hindu refugees might also meet the same fate as Rohingyas one or two centuries down the line, if the government of the day then plans to survey its legal citizens. Will Mamata Banerjee be there then to protect our community?'' he said.

According to the CAA, whose rules were notified on March 13, the government will grant Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants - Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians - from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who arrived in India before December 31, 2014.

When asked about the possibility of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the near future as suggested by some opposition factions, Thakur stated that he was ''not aware of any such move'' soon.

''I am talking about the possibility of NRC in the next 100-200 years, so why not we should be secured constitutionally,'' he said.

Reflecting on the history of partition in 1947 and the formation of Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War, Thakur highlighted that since 1971, Hindus or religious minorities arriving from Bangladesh are not recognised as legal citizens of India.

''Earlier before the liberation war due to a treaty between India and Pakistan, religious minorities from Pakistan would be considered as legal refugees and given citizenship. But after the formation of Bangladesh, this system ceased to exist following which those coming from Bangladesh due to religious persecution are not legal or constitutionally citizens of this country,'' he said.

Thakur, the president of All India Matua Mahasangha, claimed that while Aadhaar cards do not confer constitutional citizenship upon the Matuas, the CAA would rectify this.

Thakur has been a strong votary of the CAA since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and had asserted that it would be enforced before the 2024 general elections.

He criticised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her stance against the CAA, accusing her of ''double standards''.

''The chief minister is saying that having a voter or Aadhaar card makes the Matuas citizens of this country. If that is so then why is the District Intelligence Bureau (DIB) under the West Bengal Police seeking land documents before 1971 from Matuas during passport verification? They are doing it because that's the norm in the federal structure to identify who is a legal citizen and who is not,'' he said.

Banerjee had vowed not to implement the CAA in the state and had warned people that applying for citizenship under the CAA would designate them as foreigners and advised against it.

Thakur dismissed allegations that detention camps like those seen post-NRC in Assam would emerge in Bengal, attributing the existence of such camps in the northeastern state to the Assam Accord of the 1980s under the Congress government.

''The BJP government wants to give these refugees legal citizenship through CAA, there can be no greater service to humanity than this,'' he said.

Thakur acknowledged the confusion among the Matuas concerning citizenship applications due to insufficient documents verifying their previous residential addresses in Bangladesh, saying that the ''matter has been taken care of''.

''In the application form, there is an option that during physical verification, you need to show documents but you don't need to submit any document while applying. Now the Indian government will decide what an applicant needs to show. In case, a person doesn't have any document, he or she can produce a character certificate from an organisation of the community he or she is associated with or from the local public representative,'' he said.

The members of the Matua community, who have been eagerly awaiting the implementation of the CAA, have been facing problems as the online application seeks several documents that include proof of original residence, which is in Bangladesh.

Encouraging Matua community members who migrated to India before 2014 to apply for citizenship under the CAA, Thakur emphasised the importance of obtaining fresh citizenship to access various benefits, including proof of permanent residency required for passports and visas.

He emphasised that ''even those who arrived before 1971 without proper documentation can apply for CAA''.

Thakur, expressing confidence in winning the seat for a second consecutive time, said the ''CAA will help BJP win elections'' in the state.

''Those who will benefit from CAA know what the BJP has done for them,'' he added.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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