By admitting that Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nisith Pramanik came to India from Bangladesh as a refugee, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has waded into a bigger controversy — how could a 1986 born in Bangladesh get Indian citizenship?
BJP West Bengal General Secretary Sayantan Basu told the media on Sunday that Pramanik had come to India from Bangladesh as a refugee like ” millions of others”.
This came a day after Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enquire into the nationality of the newly-appointed Union Minister.
On July 17, Bora tweeted a letter he wrote to Modi the previous day urging the Prime Minister to conduct an enquiry.
“Therefore, I urge upon you to conduct an enquiry about the actual birthplace and nationality of Nisith Pramanik in a most transparent way and clarify the whole issue as it creates confusion across the country,” Bora wrote in his letter.
Pramanik was inducted into the Union Cabinet on July 7. He was earlier with the Trinamool Congress (TMC). In 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, he sided with the BJP.
‘Pujar Mala’, a Facebook page from Bangladesh, had first sparked a controversy by posting that Pramanik was born in the Harinathpur of Gaibandha in Bangladesh.
Pramanik’s official entries in India says he was born on January 17, 1986, at Dinhata in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district.
But if Pramanik was indeed born in Bangladesh in 1986 and came to India after birth, he clearly does not qualify to be an Indian citizen, unless the government of the day had provided him citizenship under some special consideration.
March 26, 1971, has been marked as the cut-off date and only those entering India before that date would automatically qualify for Indian citizenship.
The 1985 Assam Accord reiterated this cut-off date and provided for action against those entering the state after that date.
Sayantan Basu said the BJP is committed to enforce the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in parliament precisely to provide citizenship to those entering India on grounds of religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh after 1971.
“The point is the CAA is not yet implemented in West Bengal and nobody, surely not Pramanik, has yet applied for citizenship under CAA provisions,” said a senior lawyer close to the TMC.
He said Pramanik has already claimed he was an Indian citizen and that he was born in Dinhata in India.
“Now if it is established he was born in Bangladesh and came to India after birth, the question is whether his claim of Indian citizenship is valid and tenable in law,” the lawyer said.
And it also leaves behind questions over his integrity because of the contradictory data about his place of birth.
Pramanik won a seat in the Bengal Assembly elections this summer but resigned to retain his Lok Sabha membership.
He had written his Madhyamik Pariksha or secondary exam as his highest educational qualification in both affidavits.
The one for the assembly election was submitted on March 18, 2021, and the one for the Lok Sabha election was submitted on March 25, 2019.
However, Pramanik’s profile on the Lok Sabha website says his educational qualification is “Bachelors of Computer Applications (B.C.A.) Educated at Balakura Junior Basic School”.
“In March, his highest educational qualification was that he had appeared in the higher secondary exam he did not clarify in his affidavit if he passed the exam. And now, in July, he has a bachelor’s degree! ” asked former TMC MLA Udayan Guha.
Guha alleged that the school that Pramanik’s Lok Sabha profile refers to is a non-descript junior school where no such course as BCA has ever been offered.
“This is a junior basic school, so how can it offer a Bachelor’s degree?”
Pramanik’s profile, however, does not mention that the school gave him the degree. It says that the course was conducted at the school.
However, the profile also does not mention which institution offered the degree, even if the school premises was used as a venue.
Pramanik was a TMC youth wing leader in Cooch Behar district whom the party expelled in 2018, after which he joined the BJP under active stewardship of Mukul Roy.
Roy, a veteran TMC leader, had joined BJP in 2017 but returned to his old party after the 2021 Bengal assembly polls.
Pramanik has mentioned of 11 criminal cases against him in his 2019 affidavit and 13 cases in a 2021 affidavit, including charges of murder, dacoity, theft, and possession of explosives.
Similar cases of murder hangs against another BJP minister from North Bengal John Barla.
More than 40 per cent of Modi’s new council of ministers have serious criminal cases against them.