Matuas in West Bengal up in arms

Protests over the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam spread to Bengal with Matuas, a sect founded by the 19th century social reformer Harichand Thakur in Bangladesh, organised rail blockades in large parts of North 24 Paraganas and Nadia district.

The Matua Mahasangha, a pressure group of the Namasudra caste, alleged that out of the about 40 lakh people who did not figure in the NRC, nearly 6 lakh were from the Matua sect.

“We condemn the vindictive move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre,” Dhanesh Narayan Guha, vice- president of the Matua Mahasangha told
The Hindu
. He also said that such “coercive action by the Centre” in the name of NRC may lead to a “backlash against Matuas living in Bangladesh.”

The Matua Mahasangha claimed about five crore Matuas, predominantly from Bangladesh, lived in West Bengal.

Mamata Thakur, Trinamool Congress MP and daughter-in-law of Binapani Devi heading the Matua sect, warned the BJP of “severe consequences” if it tried to conduct an NRC in Bengal. Ms. Thakur is one of the six MPs visiting Assam on Thursday.

52 trains cancelled

The rail blockade by Matuas began around 9 a.m. and continued till noon on Wednesday. The blockade took place in several areas of the Sealdah division. At least 52 local trains heading for places like Ranaghat in Nadia distract and Bangaon, Dankuni, Hansnabad in North 24 Paraganas were cancelled and several others were delayed, said a release by the Eastern Railways.

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