- 40 lakh people don't make the National Register of Citizens list in Assam
- Mamata Banerjee accuses the BJP of trying to divide the people
- Amit Shah accuses Ms Banerjee of vote bank politics, spreading confusion
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday tore into the government over a list of citizens that excludes 40 lakh people from Assam, warning that the move will lead to "civil war and bloodbath". Her remark drew a sharp reaction from the chief of the ruling BJP, Amit Shah, who said he was "stunned" and demanded to know, "What about the rights of Indians?"
The draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) - an exercise to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh - has triggered a massive political controversy with opposition parties including Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress accusing the BJP of trying to drive out people for political reasons.
"How will they live in Assam? Where will they get food, shelter, schools?" Ms Banerjee had said earlier on Tuesday, referring to the 40 lakh people whose names are not on the citizen's list. "They (BJP) are trying to divide the people. The situation cannot be tolerated. There will be a civil war, bloodbath in the country," said Ms Banerjee.
At a press conference almost at the same time, Amit Shah hit back, saying the Bengal Chief Minister was "spreading confusion" with her claims of "civil war". Accusing her of playing vote bank politics, he said, "I heard the whole speech and I am stunned by it".
"This step has been taken for protecting the rights of the people of India. Every party should make their stand clear where rights of Indians are important or not," Mr Shah said, retaliating to opposition jabs on human rights.
Ms Banerjee, who was in Delhi on Tuesday, was unfazed.
"Who are they to decide who is Indian? Only the BJP people are Indian and all non-BJP people are non-Indian. The name of Indian politics is tolerance. The name of Indian politics is democracy," she declared later.
The Bengal BJP -- whose chief remarked on Monday that the same exercise for drawing up a citizen's list will be undertaken in Bengal once the BJP comes to power in the state -- was not spared either.
"Are they guardians of West Bengal? Who are they to decide on West Bengal? The West Bengal government is there... There should be some limitations," the Chief Minister said in a no-holds barred attack as her party kept up the pressure in parliament, stalling the functioning of Rajya Sabha.
"I am surprised to see that the names of our former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed's family members are not on the NRC Assam list," Ms Banerjee said. "What else can I say? There are so many people whose names are not there".
The government has made it clear that the Assam list is only a draft. The Supreme Court too, has clarified that no action will be taken on basis of the list without a fair hearing to everyone.
The draft list of citizens, which leaves out 40 lakh people, has triggered huge protests inside parliament and out. While the people in Assam are apprehensive of action, opposition parties have accused the government of targetting Muslims, using illegal migrants as a pretext.
The draft list will be made available to public on August 7 and those not on it can file claims and objections from August 30 to September 28, the top court said on Tuesday.