Mamata Banerjee's Lawmakers, Detained Overnight At Assam Airport, Fly Out

An eight-member TMC team was planning to campaign in Silchar against Assam NRC draft list when they were detained at Silchar airport

Trinamool leaders were physically stopped from exiting Silchar airport, said Derek O'Brien

Highlights

  • Eight Trinamool lawmakers stopped at Assam's Silchar airport
  • They went to Assam to campaign against a draft citizens' list
  • The lawmakers have not budged from the arrival lounge for hours
Silchar, Assam:

Lawmakers of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress spent the night at Assam's Silchar airport, after they were detained late Thursday evening. This morning, six of the eight lawmakers took a flight back to Kolkata. The other two members -- Mamatabala Thakur and Arpita Ghosh -- are expected to take a flight to Delhi later this afternoon.

"We spent the night in three rooms at the airport," said Rajya Sabha parliamentarian Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, who was among those detained, before he flew out.

The TMC lawmakers had gone to the state to campaign against the draft citizens' list, which triggered a political storm, when they were stopped by the police.

In dramatic footage from the airport, women in the Trinamool team were seen running as they were chased and restrained by policewomen. Now the police too, have presented footage claiming one of the lawmakers had jostled and pushed a constable, injuring her.

In the video footage, lawmaker Mahua Moitra is seen pushing the woman constable, who, at one point, is seen pleading with her. They will be kept at the airport for the night, the police said.

Earlier on Thursday evening, Mamata Banerjee had told her lawmakers to stay put at the airport and not go anywhere. "There is a super emergency in Assam. They don't want us to talk to people," said the West Bengal Chief Minister.

The eight-member team of TMC lawmakers was to address public meetings in Silchar against the National Register of Citizens (NRC), an updated list that excludes four million people from Assam. Opposition parties have accused the BJP - which rules Assam - of using the register to target people for election reasons in the name of identifying illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

ju8p5vu8

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an updated list that excludes four million people from Assam (Reuters)

As the Trinamool Congress team landed around 1.30 pm, the airport had a large contingent of police and district officials who refused to let the lawmakers leave, citing an overnight ban on large gatherings.

The argument escalated, with the Trinamool alleging that its members were roughed up. Visuals recorded on mobile phone show Mahua Moitra, an MP, trying to get away from the policewomen, who run after her. Another woman lawmaker is pushed.

"Our members were roughed up. Sukhendu Shekhar Roy has a pacemaker, he was also roughed up," said outraged Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien in Delhi.

Women MPs were also hurt, he said, adding: "What is going on?"

Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, the Rajya Sabha member who led the team, said the police refused to let the group go into town even after he and his colleagues cancelled a public meeting and assured the police that they would only meet people.

al9qhkj8

Opposition parties have accused the BJP - which rules Assam - of using the register to target people for election reasons in the name of identifying illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. (PTI)

"But they did not allow us. We are at the airport, gheraoed by policemen. There are 1,000 policemen outside. This is the measure of the democracy of Narendra Modi," said Mr Roy.

The Trinamool Congress legislators and parliamentarians protested at the arrival lounge for hours before they were detained.

A large number of Trinamool supporters gathered outside the airport and shouted slogans. Nobody was allowed to enter or leave the airport.

"I think this is beginning of the end. They are frustrated, they are politically tensed and depressed. And that's why they are showing muscle power," said Mamata Banerjee.

The Chief Minister and her party leaders have aggressively campaigned against the Assam citizens' list, which was meant to be an exercise in identifying illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Ms Banerjee says lakhs of people have been left out of the list over electoral politics and has warned of "civil war and bloodbath".

The BJP, which rules Assam, has accused Ms Banerjee of fanning flames which are dormant, and trying to incite unrest.

More News