Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Dhaka on March 26 right after campaigning for the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly election ends. He is scheduled to visit Matua temple at Orakandi, around 200 km from Dhaka on March 27, when Bengal votes in the first of the eight phases of assembly polls.  

The significance of his visit is being analyzed as an attempt to garner votes from the Matuas who trace their lineage to Bangladesh. Many Matuas had migrated from Bangladesh which was then known as East Pakistan and a large number of them are refugees in the Bengal districts of North 24 Paraganas, South 24 Paraganas, Nadia, Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Cooch Behar and Bardhaman who are yet to be given citizenship. After partition, the descendent of Harichand-Guruchand, Pramatha Ranjan Thakur and his wife Binapani Devi organised Matuas in West Bengal under Matua Mahasangh’s umbrella

He will pay respect to Matua sect founder Harichand Thakur, who was born at Orakandi in united Bengal in 1812, epitomized as an incarnation of god by the Mutua community. He will also be interacting with a delegation of 300 Matua community members after offering ‘puja’ at Harichand-Gurichand Temple. Matuas are organised under the Matua Mahasangh, which is believed to have the power to influence electoral outcome in around 30 constituencies in Bengal election. 

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The Matua community leaders have been demanding citizenship for these Bangladeshi refugees. The importance of the Citizenship Amendment Act for the Matua community lies in the fact that the act does not differentiate between Hindus who migrated to India due to religious persecution and Muslims entering for economic prospects. The community had supported the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Bengal and have been waiting for the implementation of CAA which was enacted in 2019. This led to the creation of a positive wave for the BJP among Matua community. However, questions around Indian citizenship ‘guarantee’ have been raised due to the development related to the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. 

Mamata Banerjee had even declared the establishment of a Matua Development Board and a Namashudra Bikash Parishad. She also assured the Matua community a state holiday in honour of Harichand Thakur on his birth anniversary, March 11. Amit Shah had lunch at the home of a Matua refugee in Bengal. And, now PM Modi is paying respect to Matua sect founder Harichand Thakur at his birthplace during his Bangladesh visit.

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