Intro: Bent upon protecting crores of illegal Muslim Bangladesh nationals staying in Assam at any cost, the state Congress government starts putting Hindus in detention camps illegally declaring them ‘D’ Voters.
One might recall the statement of former Assam Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia, who on April 12, 1992 said “There is no illegal migrant in Assam”. Present CM Tarun Gogoi while addressing a public rally at Juria under Nagaon on December 2, 2012 also said, “There is no Bangladeshi national in Assam.” Then why have about one hundred ‘Foreigners’ Tribunals’ been created in all 27 districts of Assam?
The way the Hindu Bengalis, victims of social injustice and religious persecution in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, sheltered in Assam are being hunted down and branded ‘D’ (Doubtful) Voters, arrested and sent to detention camps, (as BJP MLA Dilip Paul says) is not different from the treatment meted out to Jews by Hitler. It will be a disaster for Assam if political class in power or in opposition ignores the harsh reality to make a distinction between an infiltrator and a refugee. This had been and is the great blunder made by AASU leaders and the AGP in power for 10 years. The stand of Congress needs no elaboration when the two chief ministers denied the presence of any infiltrator in the state.
As a consequence, refugees have become the victims of police harassment. There is no clarification from Dispur as under which law or legal provision the Hindu Bengalis are being targeted and sent to detention camps despite their valid documents? Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi washed off his hands by saying, ‘All all this is being done at the directive of the Court’ and even absolved himself of any responsibility to extend legal aid to poor and illiterates, mostly the victims, to which they are entitled under Articles 39 A, 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In the process, many Indian citizens have been sent to detention camp in Barak Valley since August when police launched action against those who have been declared absconding. Border police has justified the ongoing drive to detect and detain the suspected foreigners on the ground that after having been served with notices by Foreigners’ Tribunal, they have not responded. But, BJP leaders of Hailakandi, while condemning police action argued that the cases are not being looked into seriously.
Persons who have been detained possess valid documents, which should have been properly examined and scrutinised. It is a drive that raises many intriguing questions. Presently, people are not aware under which legal provision such actions by the police have been taken. A 102 year old Repati Das and his wife Titilabala Das have been listed as ‘D’ voters and taken to Ratabari police station and then lodged in camp. In fact, though the name of Repati Das appears in 1966 legacy data, there has been a distortion in the spelling and his name is listed as Rebati.
Five years ago due to this distortion in name, the Foreigners’ Tribunal declared him and his wife as foreigners. According to records shown by Repati Das, he was born in 1912 in Bazarighat area of Karimganj district and his father Bipin Ram Das was a resident of that place. Later on Repati Das left for Dullabhcherra. He has been living a pecuniary life with all hardships. He could not understand why police should detain him and send to detention camp.
Moreover, his name appears in the voter list of 1966. Even in the current legacy data, his name appears. He admits that he was served with notice by Foreigners’ Tribunal but being illiterate he could not understand its implication. It was all due to the distortion in his name for which he has to suffer. In the meantime, many persons have been sent to detention camps. Before he could understand anything, Satyendra Paul was picked up from his house located at Karicherra village in south Hailakandi by the police.
Satyendra Paul’s father Rabindra Paul came from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, on December 31, 1963. Rabindra Paul has legacy data of 1966, the code number of which is 220-4006-9008. The detention of Satyendra Paul, a heart patient, has created serious resentment among BJP leaders and workers who have described selective targeting by police as the conspiracy of Congress. Besides, demonstrating outside office of Border police, the BJP workers assembled before the office of SP and Additional SP, venting out their anger vehemently. Later a delegation met SP Rajen Singh and ASP Rajmohan Roy who said the present drive was on the basis of the directive of the Court and they had nothing to do with it. They also explained that district wise names of Foreigners’ Tribunal cases have been published in the media. The matter is under the close monitoring of the Supreme Court and the Union Home Ministry.
According to SP of Cachar Rajveer Singh, 2000 persons have been identified as “D” voters, but he could not specify how many of them are held in the detention camp of Silchar. From all accounts, the drive against ‘D’ voters has created fear and apprehension among people about what happens in future. NGOs, youth and student bodies argue that the border police should adopt a discreet approach instead of going in for a sort of ‘witch-hunting’. The list of detention is long. Bandana Das (53) mother of a son and daughter of Kukithal village in Patharkandie block of Karimganj was first put up in lock up of Ratabari police station and then lodged in the camp. Her son Ripon Das is a BSF jawan posted in the frontier. Her parents Upendra Das and Simantini Das with legacy data of 1966 are Indian citizens. At the intervention of the Hindu Legal Cell, she was released on bail.
Brother of BJP MLA Dilip Paul, Pradip and his wife Mitali, have also been listed as “D” voters. Hindu Nagarik Suraksha Samiti slammed the Chief Minister and reminded him that the Supreme Court in its directive vide case no. 665 said IM(DT) Act is annulled and the Passport Act 1920, the Foreigners’ Act 1946 and the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act 1950 are revived and put in force with immediate effect. Section 2 of 1950 Act has provision for the protection of the minorities of Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan, who have been forced to migrate under compelling circumstances. They drew the attention of Chief Minister to the overcrowded and suffocating detention camp where arrested persons are lodged with criminals.
But the border police of Assam have no time to ponder. Reports of indiscriminate arrests are pouring in from different parts of Barak Valley. Paresh Das (62) of Thandapur village in Hailakandi, Krishna Sen (35) of Borkhola, Pratima Roy (72) and Bidhan Chandra Deb (55) of Salganga, Satyendra Paul (75) of Karricherra, Dhiren Das Malakar (48) of Mohanpur, Nimai Dey (55) of Bakrihawar, Gauranga Paul (50) of Algapur Bazaar along with many others in the meantime have been detained and put in camp. All of them have claimed linkage and legacy data to establish their Indian nationality.
Hindu Legal Cell has described the drive against ‘D’ voters as highly partisan which smacks of a deeper conspiracy against Hindu Bengalis and demanded judicial probe into the entire gamut of police action. Hindu Nagarik Suraksha Samiti demanded grant of citizenship to the Hindu Bengalis of Assam on the pattern of the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat where in the spirit of the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules 2004, the displaced minority Hindu community of Pakistan were settled and granted citizenship.
From Jyoti Lal Chowdhury, Silchar