Out­sider, In­sider

Pol­i­tics stokes an NRC cen­sus panic in the state

India Today - - STATES - By Romita Datta

Anew epi­demic has gripped Ben­gal, a fear of the NRC (Na­tional Regis­ter of Cit­i­zens)—and it has al­ready claimed 11 lives, as per the state gov­ern­ment’s claims. In the past few weeks, the rul­ing Tri­namool Congress (TMC) has tried to pin the blame for a num­ber of un­nat­u­ral deaths on the threat of the con­tro­ver­sial cen­sus.

The death of Mantu Sarkar, 52, of Balurghat in South Di­na­jpur, started the ru­mours. He died of a car­diac ar­rest while stand­ing in a queue for the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of his dig­i­tal ra­tion card. Then came the story of An­nada Ray, 38, of Jal­paig­uri, who com­mit­ted sui­cide, ap­par­ently due to NRC stress. “We said in our po­lice com­plaint that he took his life as he was in a panic over the NRC. He was search­ing for his land doc­u­ments the past few days,” says An­nada’s brother Dak­shada.

Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee lost no time ratch­et­ing up the is­sue. “We’ll pay Rs 2 lakh com­pen­sa­tion be­cause they died wor­ry­ing about the NRC,” she de­clared. What ac­tu­ally killed the above peo­ple and the oth­ers is un­clear, but the NRC is be­ing used as a con­ve­nient ex­cuse by all po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Blam­ing Ma­mata for the mess, state BJP pres­i­dent Dilip Ghosh said, “The chief min­is­ter her­self has said that there was no ques­tion of NRC in Ben­gal, then why is she talk­ing so much about ‘NRC deaths’ and an­nounc­ing com­pen­sa­tion?” Dub­bing the com­pen­sa­tion ‘bribes’ for more fam­i­lies to re­port deaths as ‘NRC re­lated’, he com­mented that “even dengue deaths will now be linked with the NRC panic since the gov­ern­ment doesn’t want to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that ei­ther”.

That said, there are cur­rently mul­ti­ple par­al­lel reg­is­tra­tion ex­er­cises—elec­toral roll ver­i­fi­ca­tion, cen­sus enu­mer­a­tion, na­tional pop­u­la­tion regis­ter and dig­i­tal ra­tion cards—on in the state. With the As­sam NRC is­sue loom­ing large, ru­mors nat­u­rally abound. And such is the mad scram­ble that of­fices of the block de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer (BDO) and the dis­trict mag­is­trates are wit­ness­ing ser­pen­tine queues from early morn­ing on­wards. A BDO of­fice at Habra in North 24 Par­ganas was forced to stay open be­yond reg­u­lar hours to serve the crowds that had come for dig­i­tal ra­tion cards.

“The NRC is now an is­sue and the TMC wants to keep it alive as it ap­pears to have cor­nered the BJP for the mo­ment,” says Pras­anta Ray, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Pres­i­dency Univer­sity.

GAME ON CM Ma­mata Ban­er­jee leads an anti-NRC pa­day­a­tra in Kolkata

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