Kolkata, Dec 30 (PTI) Months before the assembly polls in West Bengal, senior BJP leader Mukul Roy on Wednesday said that the party has spoken to the Centre about forming a development board for the Matuas, who are refugees holding sway in many seats in the state, and expressed hope that it will be announced soon.

He claimed that though the central government has endeavoured to present a respectable life to the Matua community by passing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the ruling Trinamool Congress is working against their interests and has opposed the legislation for electoral politics.

"For the upliftment of the community, an All India Matua Development Board is a necessity and we have spoken to the government in this regard. We have faith that it will be announced soon," the BJP national vice president told at a press conference here.

"The BJP has undertaken to implement the CAA, but it is being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are sure that the central government will ensure that the Matua and other scheduled caste communities who came to the country from Bangladesh as refugees, get citizenship and a dignified life," he said.

BJP leader in-charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya, had said in the first week of December that the CAA is likely to be implemented from January as the Centre is keen to grant citizenship to the large refugee population in the state.

However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his recent visit to the state said that rules for the CAA are yet to be framed because of the pandemic situation and the matter will be considered once COVID-19 vaccination starts and the corona chain breaks.

The Matuas, who have a sizeable population in the state, are being wooed by both the BJP and the TMC in the run-up to the assembly elections due in April-May next year.

Raking up the Marichjhapi massacre of 1979, Roy alleged that state Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee rode on support of the Matua community but has not done anything to give justice to those killed there or their families.

An unspecified number of refugees mainly belonging to scheduled castes were killed allegedly in police firing at Marichjhapi island in the Sunderbans in the then undivided 24 Parganas district of West Bengal in 1979 during the Left Front rule.

Alleging that the Mamata Banerjee government has been indifferent to the issue despite over 40 years having passed since the incident, Roy said that the BJP is the only political party which can put the accused persons to trial.

"People from the Matua community have been victims of political violence during the Left and the TMC rule. But leaders of both the dispensations have kept good relations with them only in the interest of votes," he claimed.

Roy alleged that the TMC, CPI(M) and the Congress have ensured that illegal migrants from Bangladesh got to stay in the state permanently for votebank politics, while ignoring the interests of the refugees.

Roy claimed that people belonging to scheduled castes have faced the maximum discrimination in the state and are living in appalling conditions.

Alleging that unemployment among the scheduled castes has risen strikingly during the TMC rule, the BJP leader claimed that child mortality among these people is much higher compared to that of others in the state.

He claimed that nearly 65.9 per cent scheduled caste women of the state are victims of malnourishment.

"Mamata Banerjee and the TMC consider these communities as only vote banks and use their sentiments for elections, but have never taken any positive step for their upliftment and a better life," Roy said.

Shantanu Thakur, a BJP MP and a member of the family that leads the Matuas, said that recent speculations that he may join the TMC were wrong and that he was very much a member of the saffron party.

"Our aim is implementation of the CAA and I have been requesting the government for that. But that does not mean that I am going to join those who are opposed to the CAA," Thakur said.

He expressed hope that Union Home Minister Amit Shah will visit Thakurnagar, where the Matua community leadership is based, in January and will address the refugee people on the issue.