The Matua group in West Bengal is 3-crore robust however the cloud on citizenship has solely made them mere political pawns for many years
She may now not roll bidis for a dwelling. And his building websites stood nonetheless. For Putul and Nanda Maulik, a pair of their late 50s, coronavirus -induced lockdown ought to have been probably the most unsettling interval of their lives. But they’ve seen worse. “We lived the first 20 years of our lives in insecurity and fear,” says Putul, 57, whereas making bidis on the door of her tin-roofed home. “As a woman, I would always be afraid to step out of my home.”
Until 1984, they lived in Bangladesh, enduring hostility and persecution from the bulk Muslims within the nation. “I have been harassed and manhandled,” says Nanda, 59, a day by day wage labourer. “Our locality had very few Hindus. We did not complain to the cops fearing a backlash. When we could not take it any longer, we decided to escape.”
Eight hours on foot, adopted by a nervous bus journey, took them to Shishir Nagar, a small, quiet village situated within the district of Nadia in West Bengal, which shares its japanese border with Bangladesh. That is the place they’ve eked out a dwelling for the previous 37 years. “I get Rs 140 for rolling 1,000 bidis in a day and he gets Rs 250 as daily wage,” says Putul. Her eyes nonetheless on the bidis.
With the Assembly elections happening in West Bengal, she has her eyes on one other factor: citizenship.
Putul and Nanda belong to the Matua group. Classified as a scheduled caste group, Matuas are the decrease caste Hindu refugees that hint their ancestry to erstwhile East Pakistan, which turned Bangladesh after the partition in 1971. Operating as agriculturists in Bangladesh, they’ve been migrating to West Bengal for many years since partition to flee persecution, and are concentrated within the districts of Nadia, South and North 24 Parganas, and Malda, amongst others. With a inhabitants of over Three crore, Matuas have the flexibility to affect round 70 Assembly seats in West Bengal.
In the 2019 normal elections, BJP had bagged a big chunk of the Matua vote, which was overwhelmingly in TMC’s nook till then. Narendra Modi had begun his Lok Sabha marketing campaign from Thakurnagar in South 24 Parganas — the mecca of Matuas — by in search of blessings from Boro Ma, the matriarch of the group. She belongs to the household of Harichand Thakur, who fashioned the Matua Mahasangha in East Pakistan within the mid-1800s.
Winning 4 of the 10 SC reserved seats in West Bengal, BJP’s important plank to woo Matuas was promising citizenship underneath the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has now develop into the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
For all sensible functions, although, the Matuas are residents of India, says Kapil Krishna Thakur, Dalit author and CPI politician from North 24 Parganas. “They have the voter card, Aadhaar card and all the relevant documents,” he says. “There is no law that supports their discrimination. But people on the ground are sometimes threatened or blackmailed. Not everyone is aware of their rights. And there are elements that exploit that.”
Putul says that’s exactly the uncertainty they need to eliminate. “We are always scrutinised more than the others during verification drives,” she says. “We are always asked for more papers and documents at government offices to prove we are citizens of India.”
About 10-15 years in the past, Nanda’s brother landed a authorities job. The jubilation of getting secured a job quickly become a bitter expertise. “We were asked for bribes because we are refugees. We were told if we don’t pay, we will lose the job,” says Nanda. “We come from a poor family. People exploit that because we don’t have much agency.”
Over a decade after that bitter expertise, Putul and Nanda at the moment are anxious about their son, Raju, 28, who’s working arduous for the exams that may land him a job in civil companies. “What if he cracks the exam but fails to get the job because we came from Bangladesh?” asks Nanda.
The BJP has efficiently tapped into that insecurity. Mukul Adhikari, 31, BJP candidate from Ranaghat South Assembly constituency in Nadia, says the refugees again the BJP as a result of it’s the solely celebration that’s preventing for his or her citizenship. “70 percent of people in my constituency are Matuas,” says Adhikari, who himself belongs to the group. “CAA will happen and they will get citizenship.”
However, over a yr because the passage of CAA, the Central authorities has not even framed the regulation, not to mention implementing it. At a rally in Thakurnagar, Amit Shah in February stated the CAA will probably be applied after the COVID-19 vaccination drive concludes, and the Matuas will probably be “respected citizens” of India. In late March, Modi visited Bangladesh and interacted with the Matua group.
Critics, nevertheless, say that the BJP is bluffing and deceptive the group.
“The Matuas want unconditional citizenship, but no such provisions contained in the law that has been passed. This is the reason why framing of rules is being delayed. Union home minister is telling lies to the people of Bengal and bluffing the Matuas,” Prasenjit Bose, convenor of The Joint Forum Against NRC, was quoted in The Wire.
To counter BJP’s surge among the many Matua group, Mamata Banerjee introduced 1.25 lakh ‘pattas’, or land titles, to the refugees in West Bengal. Banerjee has fastidiously cultivated this vote financial institution for years and has even been appointed the chief patron of the group. She has reiterated that their voting rights mechanically set up them as residents of India. As far as political overtures are involved, Boro Ma’s son, the late Kapil Krishna Thakur, turned an MP in 2014 on the TMC ticket.
However, his brother, Manjul, who was a TMC minister, joined BJP alongside along with his two sons Subrata and Shantanu. The household, which nonetheless wields appreciable affect within the Matua group, is split alongside celebration strains. However, the citizenship card tilts the equation in favour of the BJP.
Harshit Mondol, 70, a halwai along with his store close to Shishir Nagar, says the CAA corrects the “kaala kanoon” of 2003, which was handed underneath the then NDA authorities led by Atal Bihar Vajpayee. The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2003 had a provision. Those that sought refuge in India after 1971 have been tagged as unlawful migrants. “People in our community have often faced harassment while getting passports or caste certificates issued,” says Harshit. “We are often labeled as outsiders. Members of our community have been arrested as foreigners as well. If you want to get a job or get any work done, you cannot circumvent police or bureaucracy. And we are always scared that something will go wrong for us because we are refugees.”
Raju, Putul and Nanda’s son, who has been learning day in time out to get into civil companies, says he doesn’t know anybody in his group that has been denied a job however has heard that “it is tougher for us than the rest”. “If we get the citizenship card, it will be a huge burden off our chest,” he says. “Even though we have all the documents, we feel like infiltrators. Citizenship will put an end to it.”