Amid the countrywide unrest over the centre's new citizenship law, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today dared the ruling BJP to go for a UN-monitored referendum on the matter. Addressing a huge rally in Kolkata -- part of a 10-city protest -- Ms Banerjee said, "If BJP has guts, it should go for a UN-monitored referendum on the amended Citizenship Act and NRC".
"If the BJP loses this mass vote, then it should step down from the government," she added.
Addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minster Amit Shah, she said, "Let's have a vote. Just because you are majority, you can't do just about anything. You are terrorising all, the pillars of society".
A swift retort came from the BJP. "She is the most irresponsible Chief Minister who doesn't deserve to hold a public office. This is the kind of language Pakistan would speak! Just shows how she is aware of the slipping public support in Bengal...," tweeted Amit Malviya, the in-chrge of the BJP's Information and Technology.
The contentious citizenship law promises citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who moved to India by 2014. Critics say the law challenges the foundations of India's secular constitution by making religion a criterion for citizenship.
Kolkata was one of the few cities which saw peaceful protests today - the rest were marred by violence as the protesters defied the police and in some cases, a law to ban large gatherings. In Lucknow and Ahmedabad, the protesters clashed with the police, who used batons. In Mangaluru, the police opened fire on the protesters.
While the BJP has been accusing opposition parties of instigating violence, Mamata Banerjee suggested an alternative theory. The BJP is buying skull caps for its cadres, who, she said, "vandalise properties to malign a particular community".
The Chief Minister has refused to implement the new law and the National Registry of Citizens -- meant to eventually help purge illegal migrants -- which the government plans to take across the country after its introduction in Assam earlier this year.
"Work has started for voter list. Some false names will be pushed online. Everyone be careful. Make sure your name is on the voter list," she said. "Work on the voter list has been on since December 16... I am telling you we are not doing census," she added.