West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam was targeting those who were protesting against the National Register of Citizens draft or those who failed to find a mention in the list. She alleged that the government was sending such people to detention camps.

The Assam government on July 30 published the final draft of the register. Out of 3.29 crore applicants, more than 40 lakh people did not find a mention in the list. A day after the draft was published, the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to not take any coercive action against those whose names were excluded from the list. The court reiterated that the document was only a draft.

“Around 1,200 people, including children and women, have been sent to detention camps,” she told reporters at the state secretariat.

The West Bengal chief minister said her allegations were based on her interactions with locals in Assam. “Bengali speaking people are tortured in Assam,” Mumbai Mirror quoted Banerjee as saying. “If someone protests against NRC, they are put into detention camps. People are named as refugees forcefully.”

The Trinamool Congress chief alleged that fake cases are being registered against people excluded from the draft document and that 1,200 people were already in a detention camp, ANI reported.

Banerjee said she feared the possibility of other states replicating the initiative to separate Indian citizens from so-called illegal migrants.“In Maharashtra, a lot of Bengalis and Biharis stay. In Bengal, we have Biharis and Marwaris. If this game is played, will it be good for us?” NDTV quoted the chief minister as saying.

She criticised BJP President Amit Shah for his stance on the document. “Do you have your parents’ birth certificate,” Banerjee said in a comment directed at Shah. “I do not have my parents’ certificates [which are needed to prove citizenship according to the NRC guidelines]. I want to ask the same question to all the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh units. Do they have birth certificates of their parents?”

The exercise

The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from so-called illegal migrants who might be living in the state. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner. Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.