Kolkata, Aug 1 (IANS) Thousands of members of the All India Matua Mahasangha on Wednesday squatted on the railway tracks in various stations in West Bengal, disrupting train services for hours over Eastern Railways Sealdah division in protest against the exclusion of 40 lakh people from Assam’s draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The rail blockade began even before 8 a.m. at New Barrackpore station in the Sealdah-Bonagaon section and quickly spread to around 30 stations in North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts.
Commuters were greatly inconvenienced as the agitation continued in most of the stations till a little while after noon.
An Eastern Railway spokesman said the blockade was lifted around 12:10 p.m., following which normalcy was gradually restored.
The Mahasangh, a representative body of the Matua community, comprising primarily low-caste Hindu refugees from Bangladesh, has alleged that the NRC was a ploy by the Bharatiya Janata Party to “drive out Bengalis from Assam”.
The community commands nearly a crore votes in various Southern Bengal districts and plays a crucial role in determining the electoral fortunes in at least 74 of the state’s 294 assembly seats.
It is almost a ritual for all parties to call on Matua ‘godmother’ Boroma (Binapani Devi) at the Masangh headquarters in Gaighata’s Thakurnagar and seek her support ahead of every election.
However, Baroma has been consistently supporting the ruling Trinamool Congress over the past few years.