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Clash in name of ‘Doubtful Citizen’ in Assam

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter

Guwahati: Josnara Khatun is too shocked to utter even a word now. The 14-year-old girl is yet to realize what really went wrong that she suddenly became the centre of the attention, which finally landed her at the hospital bed at Morigaon Civil Hospital.

On August 10, two police personnel came to Josnara’s house in Milanpur to ‘arrest’ her parents to send them off to the detention camp for not being ‘Indian Citizen’. Her father Rustam Ali, a rickshaw puller, had gone to Morigaon town for work. Police asked Ali’s wife Sahera Khatun to come to police station with her daughter as the court had declared them as foreigners, so that they could be arrested and sent to detention camp.

At this, Sahera got shocked and tried to plead to the police that the Gauhati High Court had granted their family interim relief. “We had challenged the verdict of Foreigners’ Tribunal before the honorable Gauhati High Court and the court has granted interim relief from detention and deportation. The copy of the judgment has been submitted to the office of the Superintendent of Police and the case is still pending before the High Court,” Sahera told a fact finding team.

However, it did not work and the police were adamant to arrest Ali’s wife Sahera Khatun and daughter Josnara Khatun. When the situation became difficult with police not wishing to accept her words, Sahera Khatun fled from her house. Then, the police were left with the girl Josnara alone. And police personnel tried to forcefully take away the girl to the vehicle. Scared at this development, Josnara shouted for help which prompted the villagers to gather at the spot.

Prasad Ali, one of the policeman who went to arrest the family from Morigoan Police Station, sustained minor injury after the villagers tried to stop the girl from being taken to the police station.

In the ensuing melee, the 14-year-old was trapped between police and the villagers and injured. She was shocked. She was taken to the hospital soon where she is still recuperating.

Josnara Khatun

Josnara Khatun

“It was a bit surprising to see how could the police violate the interim order by honorable High Court which clearly says ‘the petitioners shouldn’t be detained or deported, following the judgment dated 12.2.2014 in the Foreigners’ Tribunal (C) 129/2009 by the Foreigners’ Tribunal (2nd), Morigaon,” said Guwahati-based advocate Aman Wadud, who visited the spot with the fact finding team.

The fact finding team has also come across some documents which clearly indicates Rustam Ali’s nationality as Indian.

This is one of those incidents where Indian citizens are harassed, which includes Bengali Hindus and Bengali-speaking Muslims in the name of doubtful citizens for some mistakes of officials or police.

NRC Legacy Data in the name of Hasmat Ali father of Rustam Ali

NRC Legacy Data

Rustam Ali’s father late Hasmat Ali’s name appeared in 1951 NRC, 1966 voter list, 1970 voter list; Rustam Ali has his ration card and land documents as well, said another member of the team.

“We tried to meet the Superintendent of Police of Morigaon to know the answer of these crucial questions. However, the SP delegated the responsibility to Additional SP Rupkishor Handique. Handique later informed us that they had no clue about honorable High Court’s interim order as well as he has no idea how the case was registered.”

“However, he briefed that normally the foreigner cases are registered based on any input from anybody or the police can suo moto register a case,” said senior journalist Ziaur Rahman, who was also part of the fact finding team.

Rustam Ali said that after the interim order from High Court, he and his five member family appeared before the SP along with three witnesses and submitted the interim order copy to SP.

Interim order by HC

Interim Order by High Court

Ali also alleged that he has to pay bribe to the police every month.

According to the state government information as of 2014 there are 1,43,227 ‘D’ voters in Assam. Sonitpur district accounts for the highest number with 24,909 ‘D’ voters followed by Barpeta with 22,814 ‘D’ voters, Nagaon with 15,642 and Dhubri with 13,303. Assam has total 1,87,22,435 voters including 96,94,051 male voters and 90,283,84 female voters, according to final photo-electoral roll 2014 published on January 3, 2014.

According to a white paper published by Assam government, more than 92 % of the resolved cases of D Voters have been declared as genuine Indian nationals. “Out of the remaining 8 % cases, in most of those cases, the decree was awarded ex-parte or the doubtful citizens didn’t get the opportunity to prove their citizenship due to multiple reasons such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to proper judicial services, communication and transportation among others,” said Abdul Kalam Azad, a community worker.

Local media, however, is running the news without verifying the details of the case. Many in Morigaon district staged protest demanding the immediate arrest of the villagers who clashed with police while trying to stop Josnara Khatun from going to police custody.

“We did not clash with police but we tried to stop the police taking the child who is just 14-year-old. In the process, a policeman sustained injuries but we did not do it intentionally. It’s very hurtful to be termed as Bangladeshi national in spite of living here for generations and possessing all the valid documents. Is this because we are Muslims and we speak Bengali language,” said Raja Ali, a local.