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Muslims divided over CAA narrative in Matua bastion

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BONGAON (WB), May 15: In the Matua stronghold of Bongaon, considered the cradle of the citizenship movement that shaped the CAA, there’s a diverse array of beliefs, aspirations, and divisions within the Muslim community.

The Matuas, a Hindu refugee community originally from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), has long been a dominant force in Bongaon’s socio-political landscape. With their roots deeply entrenched in the struggle for citizenship rights, the CAA represents a beacon of hope, promising a pathway to citizenship for persecuted Hindu minorities from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

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The Indo-Bangla border region, characterised by lush fields and tight-knit communities, is currently experiencing a notable split as political parties adopt contrasting positions on contentious issues, with apprehensions of NRC looming large. Juxtaposed against this narrative, Bongaon’s Muslim population faces uncertainty regarding the CAA, adding to their challenges.

While some see it (CAA) as a compassionate Act to help persecuted minorities, others regard it as a means of discrimination, worsening already existing socio-religious tensions.

“What is the need for CAA when all of us are citizens here. How come we can cast our votes and have all necessary documents,” said 62-year-old Amirul Mondal of Mallickpur village along the Indo-Bangla border in Bongaon.

Mintu Rahman, a weathered farmer with hands calloused from years of toil, voiced the fears of many. “Why target Muslims,” he questioned, “When their roots run deep into the soil of this motherland? It is discriminatory that in CAA, Muslims have been omitted. All religions should have been allowed under the Act,” he said.

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The schism within Muslim community in Bongaon is palpable, mirroring the broader national discourse surrounding CAA.

On one end of the spectrum are those who vehemently oppose the Act, viewing it as an assault on the secular fabric of the nation. They argue that the CAA, by explicitly excluding Muslims, contravenes the principles of equality enshrined in the Constitution, thereby marginalising an already vulnerable community.

Conversely, there are Muslims in Bongaon who, albeit reluctantly, express tacit support for CAA. Their rationale stems from a pragmatic assessment of the socio-political landscape, where aligning with the dominant narrative might offer a semblance of security and acceptance.

“CAA is for persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries. The Act is about giving citizenship and not taking it away. Muslims like us who have been living here for generations are citizens of this country,” Amirul Dafadar told PTI.

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Amirul, BJP’s booth president of Sayestnagar in Bongaon, has been tediously reaching out to every Muslim households in his area trying to apprise people about the “negative campaign” going on over CAA.

“It is the TMC which is instigating the Muslims against the CAA. They are misguiding them,” he said.

Moidul Sheikh echoed similar sentiments, emphasising that as long as their identity and citizenship remained unquestioned, people from the community should not worry about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as much as they did about the NRC in Assam.

“If our rights and status are secure, there is no need for undue concern regarding the CAA. We are opposed to NRC but not against CAA,” he said.

However, this support is often accompanied by a sense of apprehension, as they grapple with the moral implications of endorsing a policy that appears to “disenfranchise their community”.

“Many people say that we are going against our community but it is not about opposing or supporting anything. It is about a humane approach,” Moidul Sheikh said.

The recent enactment of the CAA has sparked fears of a potential NRC exercise that could leave many in the Muslim community vulnerable to statelessness.

“With the implementation of the CAA, there is a looming fear that the NRC might follow suit, subjecting us to scrutiny and uncertainty about our citizenship status,” Bapan Sheikh said, echoing the sentiments of many in Bongaon.

A large section of Muslim residents fear that they may face similar challenges in proving their citizenship, especially considering the lack of documentation.

“As Muslims are persecuted minorities, they have all their documents in place. They are very thorough about their documentation. In Assam also, we had witnessed a similar situation where more Hindus got omitted than Muslims,” political analyst Maidul Islam said.

Mahitosh Baidya, general secretary of All India Matua Mahasangha, conceded that there is seething anger and confusion among a section of Muslims over CAA.

The Matuas, who are SC along with refugees, constitute around 70 per cent of the approximately 19 lakh electorate of Bongaon, an SC-reserved seat.  The minorities comprise nearly 25 per cent of the electorate.

“The BJP is playing a dangerous game in the name of the hoax called CAA. They are dividing the communities for own political gains,” senior TMC leader of Bongaon district Ratan Ghosh told PTI.

The Muslims in this constituency have traditionally voted for the TMC in the last few elections.

BJP MLA from Haringhata in the constituency Asim Sarkar said the TMC is trying to vitiate the atmosphere by playing a communal card.

“The TMC knows they will lose in Bongaon that is why they are creating this narrative of NRC after CAA. We have communicated to educated Muslims that CAA in no threat to them,” he told PTI. (PTI)








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