Hundreds of people queued up before government and municipal offices across West Bengal on Tuesday to collect their birth certificates and property documents to be in readiness if National Register of Citizens is implemented in the state despite assurances by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that it would not be allowed.
The omission of a large number of Hindu Bengalis from the final NRC list in BJP-ruled Assam seems to have set off panic among the people in West Bengal and has led to six deaths in the state so far. More than 19 lakh people in Assam have been excluded from the final NRC in Assam on August 31, out of which around 11 lakh are Hindus.
Long queues were reported outside Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) headquarters and other zonal offices in the city and BDO offices in other parts of West Bengal as people waited for their turn to search for land and other necessary documents. "I have come to the KMC office to collect my birth certificate as I had lost it long back. I have heard that we need to have our birth certificates to prove that we are citizens of this country in case NRC is implemented in Bengal," said 75-year-old Ajit Ray who stood in front of the Kolkata civic body headquarters.
55-year-old Bimal Mondal was seen standing outside the land records department of the civic body in search of documents of land procurement in Kolkata by his parents five decades ago. Similar scenes were witnessed outside various government and panchayat offices in rural areas. "What will we do if we are declared foreigners though we were born and brought up in this country? From where will I get documents of my father being born in this country?" 25-year-old Khalque Mollah of South 24 Parganas district said.
According to government sources, six people have died so far in the districts. Two of them allegedly committed suicide after failing to procure old documents and four others died after falling ill while standing in queues with thousands of villagers at different government offices to get their documents. "We are requesting people not to panic at all. There will be no NRC in Bengal. The Trinamool government will never allow it. As long as Trinamool government is in power not a single person will be touched," Kolkata Mayor and senior minister Firhad Hakim told reporters.
The BJP Bengal leadership has, however, blamed Mamata and her party of creating a panic over NRC in the state to instill fear among the Hindus. "Only TMC will be responsible for the deaths over NRC in the state. We have clearly said all the Hindus who have come from other countries will be given citizenship under Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) and then NRC will be implemented to weed out the infiltrators," state BJP President Dilip Ghosh said.