The treatment meted out by the Assam police – obviously under instructions from the State and the Central Governments – to an eight-member Trinamool Congress delegation at Silchar airport on Thursday could and should have been avoided. The delegation consisted of six Members of Parliament, an MLA and a minister of West Bengal. They had gone in response to an invitation of a citizens’ body to attend a meeting to protest against the controversial National Register of Citizens. According to the Assam police, the TMC leaders were detained at the airport “fearing disruption of law and order in the Barak Valley.” The members of the delegation were allegedly violating prohibitory orders under section 144 of the IPC.
Several questions arise. First, the security of the airports all over India is the responsibility of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The State police have nothing to do with airport security. Secondly, no prohibitory orders were in force in the airport lounge. Thirdly, the claim that a six member delegation of a political party posed a threat to law and order in the entire Barak Valley is too fantastic to digest. The sole purpose was to prevent them from meeting representatives of the local people, acquaint themselves with the situation that has developed after the publication of the NRC and be briefed adequately so that they could raise the issue in Parliament. Their detention proved that the Government did not want them to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
The excuse that they might have made provocative statements is false and flimsy. Every day any number of provocative statements is being made by members of the ruling party – statements that encourage divisive tendencies in society and provoke violence against sections of people. Very recently a Karnataka legislator said if he were the country’s Home Minister, he would shoot all the intellectuals. Such comments are being made every day by the big and small leaders and they go unreprimanded. No other political party can be accused of giving such wanton and blatant provocations.
The publication of the NRC in Assam has already caused great panic in the affected people whose names have not appeared in the NRC. Now the BJP leaders are talking of NRCs being prepared in every State. A senior BJP leader of West Bengal has threatened to hold every ‘Bangladeshi` by the scruff of his neck and throw him out. Such statements will only add to social tension and polarize the electorate along religious lines. The politics of polarization before the general election will be detrimental to maintaining communal harmony.

Saturday, 4 August, 2018