Bangla Chief Minister and Trinamool Chairperson, Mamata Banerjee, speaks about her views on CAA, NRC, NPR, the situation in Kashmir and the misinformation campaign by BJP.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q: The Prime Minister recently visited Belur Math where he said that the Opposition was misleading people on CAA
Didi: The Prime Minister went to Belur Math on a personal visit. We have great regard for Ramakrishna Mission. We have never seen anyone use the stage for political speeches. I am thankful to the monks of Ramakrishna Mission for protesting against it.
Instead of paying respect to Swami Vivekananda ji, he did a mischievous thing – he did political propaganda. We don’t agree with his political vision. He wants to fulfill his political agenda. We don’t agree with that. In parliamentary committee, we opposed this from the beginning.
Everyone with documents like the voter ID card, PAN card, Aadhaar card, passport etc are citizens of the country. If the Opposition is misleading the people, why are people protesting in BJP-ruled States? Why are States like Assam against NRC? We support their protests. Actually, BJP is misleading the people.
They are following a divide-and-rule policy through CAA. It depends on their choice. They are in power. They must ensure ‘roti-kapda-makaan’ and not promote politics of hate. This policy is being criticised worldwide. We love our country and he is dividing the country.
The country’s economy is a disaster now. Prices are skyrocketing, unemployment is rising, industries are shutting down. Walmart is closing down their chapter in India. Instead of giving attention to these problems, they are trying to discriminate (among people).
Swami Vivekananda never said divide the country. He worked for the downtrodden people. He said unity is strength and weakness is death. Divide and rule is BJP’s manifesto, their agenda and they want everyone to follow them. This will destroy the secular fabric of the country.
Q: So, you are opposing CAA, NRC, NPR
Didi: At first we thought NPR is related to census. But now we know it is connected to NRC. There is no convention or provision that discriminates among refugees. India is a vast country, with so many languages, cultures. There are even different dialects in Bengali in every district. Even if we do not understand their language, we respect and love them. That’s the beauty of our country.
Q: So, you are saying refugees must not be discriminated against
Didi: It is not a matter of refugees. People will have to surrender their citizenship for five years. Everything will be lost. There are many discrepancies. Why have they not included Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka? It is our neighbouring country.
Q: So, you are saying NRC is anti-Bengali
Didi: Obviously it is anti-Bengali. But most importantly, it is anti-India. You can see how Bengali migrant workers are being treated in other States. Some of them were brutally murdered in Kashmir. So many migrants work in Bengal. We do not discriminate among them. How can you divide them like this?
Q: Centre claims there is normalcy in Kashmir
Didi: Kashmir is our heart. We love Kashmir. If the situation is normal, why are so many leaders under house arrest for such a long time? Why is there internet shutdown? People are suffering. Problems can be solved by taking people into confidence. But if you bulldoze your views on others, there will be issues.
Words and vision are the credibility of a politician. Your character is your credibility. Your character is your credential.
Kashmiris should have been taken into confidence. Why were political parties not called for a meeting? I want to visit Kashmir and visit Farooq (Abdullah) Ji, Mehbooba (Mufti), Omar (Abdullah). I don’t want to go as a Chief Minister but as an individual, as the Chairperson of All India Trinamool Congress. Foreign dignitaries are welcome (in Kashmir) but Indians cannot go. That is the problem. I want to go and see how Kashmiri brothers and sisters are.
Our party’s delegation is not allowed in Assam, Lucknow, Kashmir. This is the condition.
Q: Political dynamics has changed. Trinamool, DMK, Shiv Sena, SP, BSP didn’t attend the meeting (in New Delhi). The message is loud and clear – regional parties want to play on their own terms
Didi: Regional parties are feeling isolated. Why local leaders in Tamil Nadu are blaming Stalin? Shiv Sena is in a government with them, but they are also feeling isolated. Same with Arvind Kejriwal. Only meetings won’t help. This is a public movement. Let everyone carry on the protests in their own way.
We are all together.
Q: Do you mean the Congress is unreliable?
Didi: I don’t have any comments. Words are silver and silence is golden
Q: BJP accuses Trinamool of appeasement politics. In 2005, you raised your voice against illegal immigration but now you have changed your stand
Didi: BJP is misinforming, misleading, disinforming the people. My protest was ‘No ID card, no vote’. Only that can prove the genuineness of voters. Why would one name appear in 50 places? Names of genuine voters were missing. I was fighting for voting rights of genuine voters. For this movement, 13 youth workers were killed in firing by the Left Front Government. Why was I not allowed to speak in the Parliament? What BJP is saying is fabricated. Our movement started in 1991.