West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party chief Dilip Ghosh on Saturday claimed that “uneducated, burqa-clad poverty-stricken people” were made to sit on protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh and Kolkata’s Park Circus “for money and biryani”, reported PTI. Both at Shaheen Bagh and Park Circus, the women residents have been sitting in a round-the-clock protest against Narendra Modi government’s amendments to India’s citizenship law and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens.
Addressing a state BJP meeting of office-bearers, MPs and MLAs in Kolkata, Ghosh said. “Some uneducated, ordinary, poverty-stricken people, who lack consciousness, have been made to sit on the road. They are being given money and fed biryani daily, that too out of funds coming from abroad.”
Ghosh also targeted leaders of the Congress and Left parties. “National leaders of lot of parties come to Bengal, but nobody listens to their speeches,” he said. “So people like Karat or Chidambaram address gatherings at Shaheen Bagh when they are in Delhi, or at Park Circus when they are here. Who listens to them? Some uneducated, burqa-clad women sitting there with their children. They are their only audience.”
He also raised questions about the source of the money to fund such protests. “In the coming days, the truth will be known,” Ghosh added.
The BJP leader’s comments came just two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah said provocative comments by the saffron party leaders during the Delhi poll campaign may have cost it the elections. “Statements like ‘goli maro’ and ‘Indo-Pak match’ should not have been made,” Shah had said at the Times Now Summit in Delhi on Thursday.
However, Ghosh is not new to making controversial comments. In January, he had wondered why nobody had died during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Shaheen Bagh despite very cold weather. On January 12, he had threatened to shoot anti-citizenship law protestors who damaged public property, just like in Uttar Pradesh. 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. He had called those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens “termites”.
Opposition mocks Ghosh
Md Salim, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), pointed out that Ghosh has never participated in mass movements or have done grass-root level politics, reported Hindustan Times. “No person who has a minimum sense of ground reality can make such comments about these women,” he added.
West Bengal Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee also mocked Ghosh. “He is so powerful that just by hearing his name we get scared,” he said.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, grants citizenship to people from six communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, if they have entered India by December 31, 2014. However, the Act excludes Muslims from its scope. Protests against the Act have led to 28 deaths so far.
The BJP has refused to cede ground to the protestors, who have demanded a rollback of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed NRC. The citizens’ register is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants, and the government’s critics fear that since a religion criterion has now been added to the Citizenship Act, only Muslims will be disproportionately affected by NRC.