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Mamata's cry must be heard

Mamata's cry must be heard

Author: Udayan Namboodiri
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 6, 2005

On Thursday, during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee threw a bundle of papers in the direction of Deputy Speaker. Her act, though downright unparliamentary and quite condemnable on the face of it, has a context.

That context was all over the papers she hurled in full view of the nation. In them was damning evidence how the CPI (M) has, over the past two decades, padded the voter's list of West Bengal with Bangladeshi nationals. Over the past few years, committed supporters of the Trinamool Congress had documented the evidence at great risk to their personal safety. They had even crossed over into Bangladesh to establish the antecedents of these "voters".

Had the CPI(M)'s omni-present cadres found out, the whole exercise would have been scuttled. But, having hoodwinked them, Bengal's Agni Kanya found the last line of defence impregnable. And that was the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, who stood like a rock to prevent her from making a statement in the House.

For over a year now, the lone Opposition parliamentarian from West Bengal has been obstructed by the political establishment from raising the infiltration issue in its true light. The Congress-Left combine has deployed every trick to ensure that Bangladeshis not only stay on the electoral rolls of West Bengal - into which they were tucked over the preceding two decades - but also change forever the political geography of that state.

Parliament is not the only forum where Ms Banerjee has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to state her case. She was also illegally removed from the Delimitation Commission (DC). Of the five MPs and an equal number of MLAs accommodated from the state in the DC, the dice is today loaded heavily against the Trinamool Congress. Nine of these ten "associate members" are from the Left-Congress axis. The lone Trinamool representative, former IAS officer Dipak Ghosh, struggles hard at each meeting to resist a draconian proposal promoted by the two groups to give the border districts of West Bengal a disproportionately higher number of seats.

In lay terms, the same Bangladeshi infiltrators who have caused West Bengal's population explosion, are about to be rewarded with such political clout that it would be impossible for future governments in New Delhi and Kolkata to counter the destablising effects of demographic change.

Eighteen of West Bengal's 294 Assembly seats are to be shifted from low population growth areas to the very places where the results of the 2001 Census have shown a dangerous increase. In North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Nadia, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakkhin Dinajpur, Malda and Darjeeling -all border districts - the Muslim population has soared not because of "natural growth" and cannot be explained by the community's general refusal to adopt the two-child norm. It is confirmation of the phenomenon of mass exodus from West Bengal.

And all those 18 are going to be taken away from the very regions where the population had seen low growth during the 1991-2001 decade. Five are to move to North 24 Parganas ( 7.28 million to 8.94 million; share of Muslims 24.2 per cent ), three each to Murshidabad ( 4.74m to 5.87m; 63.7 per cent) and South 24 Parganas ( 5.71m to 6.91m; 33.2 per cent), two each to Nadia ( 3.85m to 4.63m ; 25.4 per cent) and Uttar Dinajpur ( 2.44m in 2001 did not exist earlier ; 38.4 per cent) and one each to Malda ( 2.63 million to 3.30 million ; 49.7 per cent ) and Dakkhin Dinajpur ( another new district with 38. 4 per cent Muslim) and one in Darjeeling ( 1.02 million to 1.61 million ; 27. 3 per cent).

The districts to lose out are Kolkata ( ten seats), Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Hooghly (two each), and Bardhaman and Birbhum (one each).

The script for this political reorganisation of West Bengal was written in the Alimuddin Street office of the CPI(M) in Kolkata. The official seal of approval was given by the state's election commissioner. The Congress, which found to its surprise in the 2004 election that it was still a favoured party of the state's Muslims (it won six seats in the border districts) gave its tacit approval.

That is why the two groups maintain strategic silence on the issue of infiltration at each meeting of the DC. But when the Trinamool's lone representative brings it up, as he did in the June 8 meeting at Vigyan Bhavan, Rupchand Pal, the CPI(M) MP from Hooghly, was quick to rise to his feet and shout him down with the preposterous claim that the "percentage of voters to the census population" is less in West Bengal than in Uttar Pradesh and some other states.

But the July 3 statement of West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjya, admitting the graveness of the infiltration issue, queered the pitch somewhat for the CPI(M). Five days later, when the DC met again, the Trinamool member impressed the Chairman, former Supreme Court Judge Kuldeep Singh, with his presentation on the secruity ramifications of the move. The Election Commission's nominee, N. Gopalaswami, assured him that the matter would be referred to the Home Ministry.

Most observers fear that the national yardstick of giving high-population areas more seats, if applied mechanically to West Bengal, can have disastrous consequences for national security. A former Governor of West Bengal ( now the incumbent in Lucknow's Raj Bhavan), TV Rajeshwar, had famously remarked that a "third partition of Bengal" may be in the offing if infiltration is not checked. That was back in 1990. Today, infiltrators are not only flattered by the Left with voting rights and ration cards, but are also about to be gifted with political domination.

Elbowed out of the DC and marginalised in Parliament, Ms Banerjee was perhaps at the end of her tether. The last date for submitting objections to the Left-Congress' seat re-distribution scheme went by on July 29. Ms Banerjee's plaintive cry must be heard. Unless the nation wants to gift Bengal away.

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