West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party President Dilip Ghosh on Tuesday wondered why nobody had died during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, despite very cold weather, NDTV reported. Protestors, mainly women and children, have been demonstrating at Shaheen Bagh for one-and-a-half months now.
Ghosh said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had claimed that over 100 people had died while standing in queues following demonetisation of high-value currency notes in 2016. “What surprises me is that people were dying after standing in line for two to three hours,” he said at an event at the Press Club in Kolkata. “But now women and children are sitting in temperatures as low as 4-5 degrees Celsius but nobody is dying! What nectar did they have? I am astonished! What is their incentive?”
The BJP leader claimed there might be a motive behind the protests. “People are very excited about Shaheen Bagh because women and children are protesting there day and night,” he said. “Some say they are getting Rs 500 every day. This may or may not be the case. But the truth about the Popular Front of India has come out. The truth about Shaheen Bagh will also emerge.”
Ghosh was referring to allegations made by the Enforcement Directorate that the Popular Front of India had deposited Rs 120 crore in banks in western Uttar Pradesh after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by Parliament on December 11. The Enforcement Directorate also claimed that the organised had paid lawyers Indira Jaising, Dushyant Dave and Kapil Sibal, an allegation all three denied.
The Uttar Pradesh Police have claimed that the Popular Front of India was responsible for the violence during protests against the new citizenship law in Uttar Pradesh last month. At least 19 people died in the protests in the state, and 26 nationwide.
The protests at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh have become a focal point for the BJP recently, especially ahead of elections in the Capital on February 8. Several BJP leaders have incorporated the protests into their election speeches and have lashed out at the demonstrators there, including Home Minister Amit Shah.
Ghosh has made similar controversial remarks in the recent past. On January 12, Ghosh threatened to shoot anti-citizenship law protestors who damaged public property, just like in Uttar Pradesh. Ghosh criticised the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal “for not opening fire and ordering lathicharge” on Citizenship Act protestors who vandalised railway tracks, trains and other public property last month.
On January 19, the West Bengal BJP chief warned that people supporting undocumented immigrants would be sent back to Bangladesh along with “lungi-clad infiltrators”. The lungi is a garment worn around the waist in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, and was a derogatory reference to Muslims.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.