Prime Minister Narendra Modi met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after arriving in Kolkata on a two day-visit. The meeting at the Raj Bhavan came amid a bitter face-off between PM Modi's BJP and Banerjee's Trinamool Congress over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that has triggered massive protests across India. "It was a courtesy call since he has come to Bengal. I told the Prime Minister that people of the state are not accepting the CAA, NRC (National Register of Citizens) and NPR (National Population Register). I asked him to rethink these steps," Banerjee said. The Chief Minister, one of the strongest critics of the new law, said PM Modi asked her to come for a meeting in Delhi on the issues since he had come to Bengal for other programmes.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Raj Bhavan here and urged him to reconsider the enforcement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and explained her opposition to the new legislation, as well as to the proposed NPR and NRC.
Briefing the media barely 15 minutes after the meeting, Banerjee said that she also sought Rs 38,000 crore in dues for the state from the Centre.
With her meeting causing raised eyebrows, Banerjee started off by saying that it was just a courtesy call and she would do it for both Prime Minister and President whenever they visit her state.
“I met him here because my state has pending dues of Rs 28,000 from the central govt. We also have pending dues of Rs 7,000 crore from the Centre on account of severe cyclone Bulbul. This is a demand of my state …it is our rightful claim. I told him that we want this money.”
“I also spoke to him about our opposition to the CAA, NPR and NRC…There have been widespread protest against all these three.”
As the opposition criticised her meeting with the PM at a time when there is sustained anti-BJP stir all over Bengal, especially with “Modi go back” being raised, Banerjee said, “It’s my constitutional responsibility to meet him. It is a matter of courtesy for me to meet prime minister or president.”
Amid swirling “go back” protests across the city against him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived under heavy security protection for a two-day trip to West Bengal during which he would take part in a number of public programmes in the city and also visit Belur Math in neighbouring Howrah district.
The protestors, sans any political banners but holding aloft the tri-colour and black cloth, filled up the streets in various parts of the city, as they shouted slogans against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).
The decibel levels increased, as their numbers swelled by the minute, giving a tough time to the huge number of police personnel deployed across the city including all vantage points related to the Prime Minister’s visit.
At the forefront were thousands of Leftist students, with members of Congress’ students wing Chhatra Parishad also joining in at various points – but none of them carried their party flags.
But more significantly, there were thousands of others, women, senior citizens — some of them even in their 80s — who laid siege on the city roads, and across the route of Modi’s itinerary. Many were agitated over the government on Friday night announcing that the contentious CAA had come into force.
The Prime Minister arrived at the NSCBI airport by an Indian Air Force aircraft at 3-20 PM, when a large number of protestors — mainly owing allegiance to the Left and the Congress — had gathered before two entry gates of the terminal, as a huge posse of personnel had a trying time in keeping the situation under control.
Not wanting to take any chances, the Special Protection Group in-charge of the Prime Minister’s security, and the police personnel opted to fly Modi by an IANF helicopter to the Race Course Maidan.
Meanwhile, the protests intensified outside the airport, as the assembled crowd repeatedly tried to break the police cordon, and after sometime the VIP Road — considered the gateway to the city — had to be closed to traffic following scuffles between police and the protestors.
Similar protests were seen near the Race Course, where Modi’s helicopter landed from the airport.
Hundreds of protestors stood close to the Second Hooghly Bridge, armed with posters and banners, but failed to come close to the Race Course as the entire area was thrown under security rings of police and SPG.
At Hastings, the protestors climbed on to the Second Hooghly Bridge and frantically waved black clothes from a distance as Modi’s chopper started disembarking.
The centre of the city — Dharamtala — saw a sea of protestors, whose rising numbers led to the shut down of all roads in the vicinity, with traffic coming to a standstill. All along the stretch, the only refrain through posters, banners, hoardings and slogans was “No NRC, No CAA, go back Modi”.
There were people from different walks of life – jeans clad youth to the aged in dhotis, girls in tops, to widows in white sarees. Many of them held banners that read: “See, we are all Indian citizens”.
Some of the protestors enthusiastically wrote on the streets: “we are Indians. Go back Modi”.
Women also demonstrated, saying “we don’t accept CAA”.
The protests had erupted hours before the Prime Minister’s arrival, as student arms of various Left parties, including the CPI-M affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI) held large gatherings in five points of the city — Golpark and Jadavpur 8B bus stand in South Kolkata, Esplanade in central Kolkata and Hatibagan as also the metropolis’ education hub College street in North Kolkata, displaying posters and banners ridiculing the Prime Minister.
Coming together under the banner “Students Against Fascism”, the protestors, joined by those of the Congress-affiliated Chhattra Parishad, held aloft the tri-colour and publicly read the Preamble to the Constitution as they staged demonstrations in each of the venues.
The CAA grants citizenship to six non-Muslim communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian — who have come to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 after facing religious persecution. (IANS)