“We will drive out Bangladeshi Muslims, not Bengalis” — thus reads a hoarding put up by the West Bengal BJP as part of its efforts to dispel allegations that it is “anti-Bengali”.
The move comes ahead of party national president Amit Shah’s rally in Kolkata.
BJP acted after the Trinamool Congress branded it as an “anti-Bengali” party following the publication of the final draft of NRC in Assam, which excluded around 40 lakh people from the list.
“We are not against Bengalis in general but against illegal infiltration. We will give shelter to Hindu refugees who had to flee neighbouring countries due to religious persecution. But we cannot give shelter to Muslim infiltrators who have been living here illegally. But a wrong message has been sent to the people of Bengal following NRC implementation that we will drive out Bengalis. We want to make it clear that we will only drive out Bangladeshi Muslims from here,” said a senior BJP leader.
Sources said the party has also changed its stance on the call to implement NRC in West Bengal as well. “People in Bengal are sentimental about their identity. We cannot adopt a hardline approach in Bengal if we have to gain ground here. We have to win the trust of people by understanding their sentiments. Therefore, it is desired that we must soften our stand on NRC when it comes to Bengal,” a party leader said.
Shah is to address a rally in Kolkata on August 10, during which he may speak on NRC.
Meanwhile, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha on Tuesday asked Muslims in the state to come forward and support NRC.
“I will urge Muslims and especially those living in Bengal, to come forward and support NRC implementation in this state. Under TMC rule, West Bengal has become a hub for infiltrators who have taken our jobs, foods and employment,” he said.