Lawmakers of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress were formally arrested late Thursday evening as they prepared to spend the night at Assam's Silchar airport. The lawmakers had gone to the state to campaign against a new citizens' list. Women in the Trinamool team were seen running as they were chased and restrained by policewomen in dramatic footage from the airport. Mamata Banerjee 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," the West Bengal Chief Minister blasted the BJP government at the centre and the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday alleged that members of a Trinamool Congress delegation were “manhandled” by police at an Assam airport and accused the Centre of imposing “super emergency”.
The Trinamool Congress supremo also 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 of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30, she wondered if stopping the delegation was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “vendetta to suppress the real facts in Assam”.
“When I went to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, he told me that no one will be harassed. And after that, a TMC parliamentary delegation comprising a Minister, one MLA and six MPs who went to meet the victims was not allowed to come out of the airport itself. Inside the airport, they were manhandled by Assam Police. Even female members were not spared,” Banerjee said after returning here from Delhi this evening.
The Trinamool delegation were confined to a room at the Kumbhirgram airport in Silchar during the day on the ground that Section 144 of the CrPC was in force in Cachar district in Assam.
Some delegation members, including women, alleged that they were manhandled by the police at the airport.
“This is most unfortunate. I condemn the attitude. Our MPs had gone there to meet the common people there, nothing else. There was no public meeting. If everything (in Assam) is okay and peaceful, if there is no harassment, then why is the (Assam) government behaving rudely with the MPs? Is it their vendetta to suppress the real facts?” she questioned.
Banerjee claimed that the people in Assam are panicky over the NRC developments and said that the BJP-led central government is showing its muscle like a “super-emergency government”.
Banerjee, who has been extremely critical of the draft NRC, also questioned the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC in various Assam districts.
“If nothing is (wrong) there, then why has (Section) 144 of CrPC been imposed? Even if Section 144 has been imposed, two persons can move freely. We know the law. They cannot state under which law they were not allowed (to move),” she said.
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.”
Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, TMC member Saugata Roy said the issue pertained to the rights of the members, as it was a breach of their privilege. He was supported by other Trinamool Congress members.
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.
The party also issued a statement saying the delegation comprising six MPs, one state Minister and one MLA was “illegally detained” at the Silichar airport and termed it “super emergency”.
“They had not gone there to break law. Yet they were beaten up. Senior MPs were pushed and shoved. Female MPs were manhandled. Is this democracy?” the statement said.
“We were supposed to interact with some people in Silchar. However, when we landed, the district administration and police officials stopped us from getting out of the airport and later were confined to a room,” said a TMC member who was a part of the delegation.
The TMC delegation reportedly told the administration that they would go out in four groups of two persons each, which will not violate Section 144, but the district administration officials refused.
The Assam government published the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) on July 30 which included names of 2.89 crore people but kept over 40 lakh people out of the document due to some discrepancies.
Meanwhile, Dipen Pathak, president of the Assam unit of Trinamool Congress (TMC), resigned from the party following differences with the party’s top brass over the publication of draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
Pathak’s resignation came at a time when an eight-member delegation of the party, which landed in Assam to assess the situation post publication of the NRC, was stopped and confined by the police at the Silchar airport on Thursday.
“The party leadership should have consulted me before sending the delegation to Assam. The party top brass has termed the NRC updation process as an exercise to drive out Bengalis and Muslims. But it’s wrong and I can’t accept it,” Pathak told the media at his residence here.
“Mamata Banerjee is out to incite communal tension in Assam and break age-old harmony. We had asked her to visit Assam several times when Assam faced unprecedented flooding, but she could not find time. Again we asked her to raise Assam’s flood problem in Parliament, which she never did. Now she is out to politicise the NRC issue,” Pathak said.
Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Kuladhar Saikia has, meanwhile, said that the detained TMC delegation is currently at the Silchar airport and they are consulting their senior party leaders to make the next move.
“There was Section 144 in force in Silchar, so we prevented them from going out of the airport. At this, they misbehaved with the police and the civil administration officials present at the airport, leading to injury to two women constables and an administration official,” said the DGP.
Saikia clarified that the Assam Police had in writing informed the TMC delegation on Wednesday and even on Thursday morning about the imposition of prohibitory orders in Silchar.
“The situation in Assam is peaceful at present and we can’t allow anyone to agitate people by holding meetings and discussions,” said the DGP, adding that the police are also likely to register two cases against the delegation members — one for trying to violate the Section 144 and the other for causing injury to the constables on duty. (IANS)