Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is locked in a political battle with a buoyant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said on Friday that those living in West Bengal have to speak in Bengali and respect Bengali culture.
“I have learned that the BJP is trying to instigate Nepalis, Rajbongshis (a community settled in north Bengal) and other non-Bengali people in the state against Bengalis, just as they are trying to instigate Hindus against Muslims and Christians against Sikhs. But I will never allow someone to stay in Bengal and start a drive against Bengalis, or terrorise them. If you stay in Bengal, you have to speak in Bengali and respect Bengal’s culture,” she told a gathering of Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers in Kanchrapara in North 24 Parganas district.
Kanchrapara comes under the Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency. Barrackpore is an industrial area where a large section of the people are migrant workers mainly from Hindi-speaking states.
Reacting to Banerjee’s statement, the BJP’s Bengal unit vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said she was trying to create a divide between the Bengali and non-Bengali population to gain lost ground. “She realises that her support base is eroding and the administration is collapsing. So she is becoming desperate,” he claimed.
Friday’s meeting was the second in Barrackapore since the Lok Sabha election results were announced on May 23.
On May 30, on her way to address a rally at Bhatpara, a part of Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency, Banerjee had got off her car twice after local BJP supporters raised “Jai Shri Ram” slogans. She was then heard shouting, “What do you think? You will come from other states, stay here and abuse us? I will not tolerate this.”
According to Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University: “Mamata Banerjee is resorting to Bengali ethnic regionalism to counter the BJP’s progress in the state. However, I have doubts whether this will be an effective strategy.”