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Embroiled in row over ‘beef passes', Union MoS suggests BSF ‘giving political shelter to TMC'

BJP's Shantanu Thakur, accused by TMC's Mahua Moitra of issuing passes to transport beef along Indo-Bangladesh border ahead of Bengal bypoll, points his finger at 85 Battalion.

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Kolkata: Union Minister and BJP leader Shantanu Thakur, at the centre of a political row for issuingbeef passes”, criticised the Border Security Force (BSF) Monday, suggesting a part of the force under the 85 Battalion at the Indo-Bangladesh border is “providing political shelter” to the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

Calling an urgent press conference at his home in West Bengal's Bongaon, the Union Minister of State (MoS) of Ports, Shipping and Waterways pointed a finger at the BSF while responding to the TMC's allegations that he has been signing passes for citizens along the border to transport beef.

“This isn’t smuggling. These are citizens who face problems due to the difficulty BSF has created at the borders with naka checking. If my letterhead helps them ferry things smoothly, it, I feel, is not anti-social work,said Thakur, sitting with Jiyarul Gazi, who purportedly procured abeef pass” from him on 2 July.

“The entire BSF isn’t the same. Out of the total posted at 85 Battalion, a part is providing political shelter, and if it is doing so for the TMC, we should take steps,Thakur added.

The BSF, which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has not issued any official statement on the controversy, so far.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) threw the first punch at the BJP in thisbeef battleunfolding in West Bengal politics on Monday when TMC MP Mahua Moitra took to X to share a photo of what seems like a signed, printed pass on the letterhead of Union MoS Shantanu Thakur. The pass, addressed to the 85 Battalion Company Commando, was to allow Jiyarul Gazi, a resident of Hakimpur, North 24 Parganas, to transport three kilograms of beef. 

Later, Moitra shared a video of Jiyarul Gazi, saying that such passes are given thrice a week from the MP’s flat on the payment of Rs 200 to one Nazmul.Many residents avail this daily for various work. I had taken one on July 2,he said, his eyes darting. It's unclear who asked the questions, but he added that he took the beef home to feed his family. 

Speaking with INDIANEXPOSE, a senior BSF official said on condition of anonymity that it is a common practice in areas along the international border to carry a pass to travel with commodities. Hakimpur, situated in North 24 Parganas, has a riverine border, making the topography a complex challenge.  

The BJP, which has usually taken a stand against cow slaughter and beef consumption as part of what the party calls its nationalist ideology, has not only brought in cow protection laws but also promoted cow welfare initiatives in a few states ruled by it. These moves have found support among some people but have been criticised, too, for imposing restrictions on the citizens' personal choices. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during the Lok Sabha election campaign, had even urged people to vote against the BJP as they, unlike the TMC,control food consumption”. 

Speaking with INDIANEXPOSE, BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said, “The TMC is just playing diversionary politics at a time the party in embroiled in mob lynching controversies.”

Another senior leader, on the condition of anonymity, said that it is an open secret how the BSF functions, but the passes with the MP’s letterhead should not have been signed. However, he said he doesn’t see any political impact of this fresh fire between the ruling TMC and his party.

“Does one not know how the BSF functions? But, Mahua Moitra was quick to hit the point home by gettingBSF, beef, and BJPin one tweet. Politically, it won’t impact us nor will the TMC get any political mileage out of it,said the BJP leader.

“Mahua doesn’t tweet on behalf of the TMC. She tweets what she wants to, but leaders taking money to sign passes shouldn’t happen,he said. 

The beef controversy comes hours ahead of the Bagdah bypoll in North 24 Paraganas on Wednesday, with the TMC pointing fingers at the BJP for allowing beef passage even though there is no law banning beef buying, selling, or consumption in the state.

According to the 2011 census, Hindus comprise 73.43% of the Bagdah constituency and Muslims 24.57%. 

(Edited by Madhurita Goswami)


Also read: How Rahul as LoP in Lok Sabha gives way to possibility of Congress, TMC turning over a new leaf


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