First year of BJP in Assam sees mostly Muslims declared as foreigners, thrown in detention camps

Declared Foreigners inside detention camps

By Raqib Hameed Naik,

With the BJP at the verge of completing its first year in power in Assam, the number of people allegedly declared as foreigners and put in detention centres across the state has also seen an increasing trend.

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Presently, D voters are detained in separate barracks located within the jail premises of Goalpara (male), Kokrajhar (female), Silchar, Dibrugarh(male), Jorhat and Tezpur for both male and female inmates.

Before losing the elections in 2015, the Tarun Gogoi government had allotted 125 acres of land in the Goalpara district of Lower Assam for setting up a ‘full-fledged foreigners’ detention centre for declared foreigners.

According to a report in Assam Tribune on April 30, 2016, there were about 489 detainees, which include 28 convicted Afghanistan nationals whereas the others are Bangladeshis and lodged in the six detention centre attached with the respective jails. This includes those declared foreigners by tribunals along with those convicted under various Sections of the law, including the Foreigners Act.

Assam based lawyer, Advocate A.S Tapader, who is pursuing cases of many people who have been declared as foreigners, feels that mostly, it is Muslims who are at the receiving end after the coming of BJP in power.

“At his first public rally in Assam during the 2014 election campaign, Narendra Modi had said that Hindu Bangladeshis would be removed from camps and will be given citizenship. He kept that promise and enacted this. Certain class of foreigners are exempted as per 3-A, The Foreigners Amendment order 2016 (GSR 703 (E) dated 18/7/2017), and the Registration of Foreigners Amendment rules 2016 (GSR 327 (E) dated 18/3/2017), hence mostly Muslims are being picked up by The Border Police and being thrown in detention camps,” he said.

Tapader also termed detaining of declared foreigner as a gross violation of human rights and has sent letters to various human rights organisations.

Declared Foreigners inside detention camps

“They are not given chance to get bail and fight their cases in courts. Border police have been given enormous power to pick and put declared foreigners in detention centres,” he added.

According to another Guwahati-based lawyer Aman Wadud, the number of people puts in the detention centre as declared foreigners are increasing day by day.

“Currently there are around 1,000 so-called foreigners detained in various detention centres in Assam. Till a month ago, Kokrajhar Central Jail which has a Detention centre for women had more than 125 women who have been declared as Foreigners, and Tezpur Detention centre had 75 women and more than 80 men who have been declared as Foreigner,” he said.

Wadud further said, “Except few, all are Indian citizens who have been declared as foreigners.Four of my clients are currently detained in all detention centres, I can say this with all conviction that they are Indian citizens,” he added.

In 1998, Election Commission of India had got the electoral rolls prepared for Assam. At that time ‘D’ was marked against the doubtful cases, who could not produce all the requisite proofs of Indian citizenship. In 2004, Gauhati High Court, ordered D-voters be sent to detention camps until cases are settled.

Till December 2016, out of 2,69,522 cases disposed of a total of 80,194 people have been declared as “Foreigners” by the Foreigners Tribunal.

“Indian citizens are being charge sheeted as foreigners. Usually, there are mistakes of names or dates in documents even that becomes a reason for the authorities to declare people as for foreigners,” Wadud explained.  In 2012, the Assam government presented a white paper maintaining that more than 92% of the resolved cases of D-voters were that of genuine Indian nationals.

Adding to the problem, the Gauhati High Court order, in its judgment on 28/02/17 questioned legality of 48 lakhs residential certificates issued to married women particularly for the purpose of preparation of National Registration Certificate (NRC) has also affected 48 lakh people in Assam.

The strongly-worded order passed by the Gauhati High Court states that a Panchayat secretary-issued residency certificate – used as a “link document” – had “no statutory sanctity” and could “at best be a private document”. It added that the use of these documents was unconstitutional and that using them was “against national interest”.