The Ministry of Home Affairs’ proposal on a pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been an issue of contention, deliberation and debate for many months now after the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 with the President’s assent. Kolkata among many other cities and towns of the country has been witnessing demonstrations against the controversial act and the proposed register and the footballing community of the city were no exception.
East Bengal was formed on 1st August 1920 on the basis of bias and bigotry towards the players hailing from Eastern part of the erstwhile Bengal Presidency in the Jora Bagan Club. Since then, all the immigrants who have made India their home after the Partition of India, 1947 and Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971 have a special connection to East Bengal club owing up to their migrant roots, which forms the majority fanbase of the club.
The proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) threatens to dislodge the migrant fans as claim and what better opportunity to display your stance on the nation-wide debate other than the elusive Kolkata Derby.
East Bengal Ultras displayed a tifo based on the famous Bengali Comic, Batul, the Great with a banner at the centre rejecting the Ministry of Home Affairs’ proposal of an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC). The banner read in Bengali: “Rokto Diye Kena Maati, Kagoz Diye Noy (A paper cannot replace a land acquired through blood).
Another display showed Batul the Great, a popular superhero Bengali comic strip character created by Narayan Debnath to protest against NRC. “Pala, pala, pala NRC asche” (go away the NRC is coming) to which the Bengali superhero comes to the rescue, showing his muscle power. Another display read: “You Bangal, where are the NRC papers”, as Bantul responds with “go away”.
It is an usual sight in South Asia when issues impacting ethnicity, race and politics are taken up on a sporting platform unlike the socio-economic culture of Sports in Europe, Latin America and East Asia. However, the East Bengal Ultras (Bangal Brigade as they call themselves) have introduced a contentious socio-economic issue on a national sporting event which may as well pave the way for more banners and tifos on the stands addressing issues larger than Indian Football.
Mohun Bagan won the game with a 2-1 scoreline over East Bengal. The game was attended by 63,756 fans.