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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Towing the CAA protests elsewhere in country, especially in opposition-ruled states, Odisha witnessed first protest against Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 on Tuesday when hundreds of members belonging to the Muslim community held a massive rally in Capital city.

What sounds significant is, the protest rally has been organised 3-days after a Muslim delegation from Bhadrak met CM Patnaik at Lok Seva Bhavan.

After meeting Naveen, Abdul Bari, President Muslim Jamat, Bhadrak, said "The Chief Minister assured us that there is no need for the Muslim community in the state to panic over either National Register of Citizens or the amended Citizenship Act."  And the big claim he made was "BJD will not support NRC." The curious fact is the big claim neither was officially affirmed nor contradicted.

The claim looks explosive, especially when BJD has recently supported the NRC legislation in Rajya Sabha and when CM Patnaik in Assembly in 2015 detailed the number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in Odisha.

As per the data provided in State Assembly, a total of 3,987 Bangladeshis were illegally staying in the State. While the largest contingent of 1,649 Bangladeshi infiltrators were staying in Kendrapara,  1,112 are staying in Jagatsinghpur. The data shows 655 infiltrators living in Malkangiri, 313 in Bhadrak, 150 in Balasore, 106 in Nabarangpur and two in Bargarh.

It needs to be reminded here that Odisha government had served 'Quit' notices to 1,551 illegal immigrants way back in 2005. But no follow up action was taken thereof.

Political observers interpret the stoic silence, in fact,  as a political statement of the ruling party. It seems the Naveen Patnaik government wants to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Political experience shows such a 'dual-game' may do more harm than good. And the rally in Bhubaneswar today is an indication.

Strangely, such signs emanating from the State government are sending the message that the Naveen government is under pressure. And sensing so the leaders of Muslim community have now upped the ante. They now demand CM Naveen Patnaik to keep CAA out of Odisha bounds, like West Bengal, Kerala and other Congress ruled states or else face the agitation wrath.

" CM Naveen Patnaik should announce that CAA will not be implemented in Odisha. Our delegation was not allowed to meet the CM. We will intensify our agitation till its withdrawal," said Syed Naqibul Amin, General Secretary Jamat Ulema, Odisha.

Throwing a veiled threat, another Muslim leader Seikh Taimur Hussain, secretary Jama Masjid, Odisha, bluntly said we demand Naveen Patnaik to immediately register protest against CAA at Centre or else we will intensify our agitation which will hit Naveen's 'vote bank'.  

Consider this statement. Post meeting CM Patnaik, Abdul Bari said we don't know how the new laws of CAA and NRC will unfold. Our apprehension is entire Muslim community may be asked to prove their citizenship in future, he explained.

Significantly, the statement by Muslim leader Bari shows the lack of knowhow about the salient features of both the Acts. And Odisha government hasn't notified yet the nitty-gritty  on public domain to scotch off the rumours ruling the air.

For instance, Muslim leaders in the rally talk about Article 14 of Indian Constitution that guarantees right to equality among citizens; whereas the CAA and NRC is about Muslim immigrants.

The bottomline is the time demands effective communication not silence.

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