One of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's senior-most ministers is flying to Guwahati on Thursday to inaugurate a Trinamool Congress office in the north-east city. The party said it will "stand by the suffering people of Assam who have been left out of the draft National Register of Citizens or NRC."
The BJP has attacked Trinamool for vote bank politics over NRC at the risk of national security.
West Bengal urban affairs minister Firhad Hakim, who is going to Guwahati, said, "We will not compromise on national security, but we will not tolerate oppression of common people in the name of national security."
Mr Hakim's visit to Guwahati comes 40 days after he went to Silchar with a team of other Trinamool lawmakers. All of them were detained at Silchar airport overnight and not allowed to go into town and hold a public meeting on NRC in that Assam town. They landed at Silchar on August 2. The next day, they were packed off to Kolkata.
Ms Banerjee was in Delhi just before the Silchar incident and met with top leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to demand justice for the 40 lakh people left out of the draft NRC that was published on July 31.
"The way Mamata Banerjee has opposed the NRC, the way those 40 lakh people left out of the draft NRC are welcoming us, we have to stand by their side," said Mr Hakim.
There are concerns Mr Hakim may be stopped at Guwahati like he was stopped in Silchar. "India is a democracy. Anyone can go anywhere. We want to stand by the people. We went to Silchar only for that. It is unfortunate that we were arrested. But we will not stop if we are resisted, we will fight," Mr Hakim said.
Referring to a recent public meeting by BJP chief Amit Shah in Kolkata, Mr Hakim added, "Amit Shah comes to Bengal and says so many things about us; we give them support, security, police. This is a democracy. If I am stopped for moving in my country, then it is unfortunate, and I will hope that they will not make this mistake," the Trinamool minister said.
Several top Trinamool leaders quit the party after Mamata Banerjee opposed the NRC. But Mr Hakim said many new entrants in Trinamool -- including former legislators and parliamentarians from Assam -- will be present at the inauguration of the party office on Thursday.
Subsequently, district offices will be opened at Garbeta, Karimganj and Silchar, the party said. "We were beside common people during the Bangladesh war; even today Mamata Banerjee is standing with the common people of Assam who are suffering," Mr Hakim said.