An eight-member Trinamool Congress (TMC) party delegation continues to remain inside the Silchar Airport over seven hours after they landed in the Bengali-dominated Barak valley to meet the people excluded from the final National Register of Citizens published by the state government.
"They have sought time for discussions with their leader on their next course of action," Director General of Police (DGP) Kuladhar Saikia said.
The delegation, including six TMC MPs, an MLA and a West Bengal minister, was restricted inside the Kumbhirgram airport, and was later taken into preventive detention as Section 144 of the CrPC was in force in Cachar district, Assam Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Agarwal said. Subsequently, the TMC leaders were also barred from entering Guwahati in accordance with an order issued by city police commissioner Hiren Nath.
The TMC team is in Silchar at the instruction of party chief Mamata Banerjee to assess the situation in Assam in the wake of the publication of the complete draft of the NRC. After the TMC leaders arrived at the airport, the district administration and police officials explained to them that they would not be allowed to come out as prohibitory orders were in force. However, the TMC leaders insisted on carrying out the visit and challenged the grounds on which the police stopped them from leaving the airport.
Following this, a scuffle broke out between the police personnel and the TMC leaders. While party members alleged that the police manhandled and assaulted them, the Assam police also claimed that some personnel were injured in the scuffle. Two women constables and a male officer of Assam Police were injured during a scuffle with the TMC leaders, the police said. Some of the members of the Trinamool team, including the party's women leaders Arpita Ghosh, Mahua Moitra, Mamata Bala Thakur and Kakali Ghosh Gastidar, also received injuries, a member of the delegation said.
The authorities had already explained to the TMC team on Wednesday that prohibitory orders were in force and that it should not visit Silchar and disturb peace when it had informed the district administration of its visit to the Bengali-dominated town on Thursday to address meetings, he said.
"But the team members did not respond cordially and engaged in a scuffle with the security forces and other government staff. Two Assam policewomen constables and a civil staff were injured," Saikia said.
TMC members barred from entering Guwahati
Guwahati Police Commissioner Nath, in an order, said the TMC MPs, MLAs and any other political and non-political persons, who might deliver inflammatory speeches against the NRC, were prohibited from entering the city and address any gathering without the permission of the competent authority.
Also, no passenger carrier, including surface or air transport, would carry such persons to the area under the Guwahati police commissionerate, the order said.
The police commissioner stated that it was feared that the TMC leaders were likely to make controversial or inflammatory speeches in Guwahati, which might disturb peace and harmony in the commissionerate area.
He said it was brought to his notice that after the publication of the draft NRC, TMC leaders had made inflammatory and controversial statements and speeches in West Bengal and were planning to address a press conference and group meetings in Guwahati on Friday.
TMC faces rebellion in Assam over stand on NRC
Assam TMC president Dwipen Pathak and two other party leaders resigned in protest against Mamata's stand on NRC. Pathak's resignation came within hours of the delegation arriving in the state. Diganta Saikia, a TMC leader from Golaghat and who was among the three to resign, even threatened to file a case against Mamata for taking an anti-Assamese stand. The ruling BJP, as well as other parties in Assam, said the TMC had no existence in the Barak valley.
Pathak, a former MLA from Hajo, told reporters in Guwahati that he had apprised the party leaders of the 'ground realities' in Assam after the publication of the final draft of the NRC and urged Mamata not to send the delegation to the northeastern state now.
"The party did not pay heed to my suggestion and refused to understand the ground situation here. In this backdrop, it is not possible for me to remain in a party that does not value the Assamese sentiment," Pathak, who was a TMC MLA from 2011 to 2016, said. "The TMC has no existence in Assam," he added.
TMC leader Pradip Pachani of Sibsagar and Saikia resigned, saying they could not remain members of a party that wanted to compromise the identity of the indigenous Assamese people.
Effigies of Mamata were burnt in Charaideo and Sonitpur districts in the Brahmaputra Valley by students' organisations, who warned the TMC supremo and her party not to 'meddle in Assam.'
Mamata's effigies were burnt by the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Parishad, Asomiya Yuva Sanmilani and All Tai Ahom Students' Union, the police said.
Congress MLA from the Karimganj (North) constituency in Barak valley Kamalakhya De Purkayastha spoke against the turning away of the TMC delegates at the airport.
"The TMC has many wrong notions about the NRC and they (delegates) should have been allowed to come here, so that their misconceptions about the draft were cleared," he said.
"We do not want the prevailing peace in Barak Valley to be disturbed at any cost. But turning the TMC delegates away from the airport was not a right thing to do," he said. Most political parties in the Barak valley too maintained that there was no sense of panic among the people and that Banerjee was "trying to use the issue to gain a political entry to Assam".
State Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, who represents the Dholai constituency in the valley, said Banerjee was trying to "mislead and create confusion here, but the people have ignored it".
"She has no idea about the ground realities in Assam and is trying to complicate the issue...The TMC has no existence in Barak Valley and they are trying to use the NRC to make an entry as well as gain political mileage," he added.
Former BJP MP Kabindra Purkayastha said, "We are at a loss to understand why the TMC delegation wants to come to Assam when the people are not complaining."
There was no confusion or panic among the people as they were aware that they could make claims and seek corrections to the NRC, he said, adding that moreover, the TMC should be aware that the NRC was updated under the Supreme Court's supervision and the government had no hand in it.
A senior police officer said the situation in the Barak Valley and the rest of Assam was peaceful and no NRC-related incident was reported so far. "The people of the state are aware that this is not the final NRC list, but its final draft," he added.
Issue resonates in Parliament
After the three-day furore over the draft NRC, normalcy appeared to return in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday as Zero Hour and Question Hour ran smoothly but the issue again erupted in the post-lunch session after party MPs raised the issue of TMC delegation being detained in Assam.
The Upper House was scheduled to take up a short-duration discussion on the "recent increase in MSP for kharif crops and challenges in agriculture", to be initiated by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah during the post-lunch session.
As soon as Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu called for taking up the debate, TMC's Derek O'Brien rose and demanded a statement from Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the detention of the party delegation in Assam and alleged manhandling of party MPs on the delegation. Meanwhile, TMC members trooped near the Chairman's podium and started sloganeering.
In Lok Sabha, the issue was raised by party MP Saugata Ray who said that the issue pertained to the rights of the members, as it was a breach of their privilege.
Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who was in the chair, said that he would convey their sentiments to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Roy later said that the "freedom of MPs has been eroded by Assam government" and that he would give a privilege notice on the issue.
BJP, TMC spar over issue
While the TMC accused Assam government of showing muscle power and imposing "super Emergency", the BJP hit back at the West Bengal's ruling party for trying to incite violence in the state.
The Trinamool Congress supremo claimed that the draft NRC published in Assam is the "central government's political vendetta to oust real Indians from the country".
Claiming that her party lawmakers had gone to Assam only to meet the "victims" whose names have been left out NRC, she wondered if stopping the delegation was part of the BJP's "vendetta to suppress the real facts in Assam". Banerjee said: "This is the beginning of their end. They are frustrated, they are politically tensed. That's why they are only showing their muscle power."
Meanwhile, West Bengal BJP leaders accused Mamata of sending a delegation to Assam to foment trouble in the state.
Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Dilip Ghosh claimed that the Trinamool delegation went to Assam to provoke tension in the region and possibly to fuel a "civil war" on the lines of their party supremo Mamata Banerjee's comments.
"No one asked them to go to Assam. Why did they go there? Their party chief Mamata Banerjee said a civil war will start in Assam over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list but Assam has been peaceful so far. May be the Trinamool team went there to start a civil war," Ghosh alleged.
He refuted the Trinamool leaders' claims of being manhandled by the Assam Police and supported their detention at the airport, saying Bengal's ruling party is being given a dose of its own medicine.
"No one has been beaten up. Police did the right thing by detaining them at the airport. All of them should be sent straight back to Kolkata," he said.
"The party that did not let the West Bengal Governor visit Asansol after communal clashes erupted there, those who stopped me and my fellow BJP MPs from going to Bengal's Dhulagarh after the unrest... how can they expect that they will be allowed to move freely anywhere and say anything?" he questioned.
The Assam government published the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) on 30 July which included names of 2.89 crore people but kept over 40 lakh people out of the document due to some discrepancies.
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government on the NRC list and alleged that it was "a global issue and not just an issue of Assam or India".
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Aug 02, 2018 22:28:24 IST