Siliguri: Calling upon all political parties, NGOs and student bodies to hit the streets and carry forward the movement against the new citizenship law peacefully, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday described the fight against the CAA as the second battle of independence.
"I appeal to all political parties, NGos and student organisations to hit the streets and take forward the movement peacefully. If you don't come out on the streets, these people will ruin India. Don't let them ruin our independence," Banerjee said at a march organised by her Trinamool Congress against the Citizenship Amendment Act in this northern Bengal town, about 550 km from Kolkata.
"This is our second battle of independence. It is a battle to protect the country's freedom, to protect the country from conspiracy, bigotism and divisive politics," she said.
The four-kilometer march began from Pradhannagar and culminated in Bagha Jatin Park. Banerjee addressed the people at both the locations.
A huge number of people, including Gorkhas, participated in the march - the first held by the Trinamool chief in north Bengal after she began her protest againdt the CAA and a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens.
Accusing the centre's ruling BJP-led NDA of efforts to snatch the people's rights in the name of CAA, NRC and the National Population Register, Banerjee said the only issue before the people now is whether they will have their addresses in future. "All sections of people should come together to ensure nobody is robbed of his address."
Banerjee iterated that everyone was a citizens of the country after having voted to elect so many governments. "It is regrettable that now they are telling us we have to prove once again that we are citizens of this country. This is a shame."
She alleged that the BJP wanted people to leave the country.
"If there is NRC tomorrow and they ask you where your parents were born, and order that unless you can provide these subjects, you have to leave the country, will you abide by that?" she asked the gathering, which responded with a resounding "no".
She asked people to ensure their names figured in the voters' list and cautioned them that there were deliberate attemps to mis-spell names of fathers or wives.
Alleging that the BJP was speaking in different voices on NRC, she said while Home Minister Amit Shah has declared that such an exercise would be undertaken, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has averred he had no such information. Again, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasaid said it will take place.
"They are deliberately sowing confusion," she said.
Attacking the BJP governments at the centre and the state of barging into universities and beating up protesting students, she said 23 people were killed in firing in Uttar Pradesh and two in Karnataka.
"Five people from Bengal had gone to UP to earn their living by working in hotels. They were labelled as terrorists and put into prison. They were not at all involved in the violence," she added.
Announcing that her party would continue the movement against the CAA, Banerjee said she would lead march from Barasat to Madhyamgram in 24 Parganas North district on January 9, and another in the north Bengal hills on January 22.