Woman with Bihar Roots Declared ‘Foreigner’ in Assam, Sent to Detention Centre

People wait to check their names on the draft list at the National Register of Citizens (NRC) centre at a village in Nagaon district, Assam on July 30, 2018. — Reuters

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GUWAHATI – After retired soldier Mohammed Sanaullah, a Hindi-speaking woman with roots in Bihar has been sent to a detention centre for foreigners in Assam.

Amila Shah was on June 15 sent to the Tezpur detention centre after she asked to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal. The 45-year-old homemaker is the wife of Ram Dulal Shah, a trader based at Dhalaibeel near Jamugurihat in north-central Assam’s Sonitpur district.

Essentially a Central Jail, the Tezpur detention centre is one of six for declared foreigners in Assam. There are currently about 1,200 such ‘foreigners’ in it.

Members of Ms. Shah’s family said their predecessors had come from Bihar during the British era and settled down near the Pertubghur Tea Estate east of Jamugurihat. Her father Kesav Prasad Gupta’s name figured in the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC) that is being updated in Assam.

Despite documents

“Despite providing all documents establishing her citizenship, the Border Police marked her as a suspected foreigner who entered Assam after March 24, 1971. She was summoned to the FT2 in Tezpur (Sonitpur district headquarters) on June 4, 2018 where all our papers were submitted with elders in the family telling the tribunal we are originally from Bihar, which is very much a part of India,” said a member of Ms. Shah’s family, declining to be quoted.

Opposition parties such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India United Democratic Front have criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Assam government for targeting certain communities and putting them behind bars in the name of detecting foreigners.

Motive doubted

“We are now beginning to doubt the motive of the government, both in the State and the Centre. How on earth can a Hindi-speaker, whether or not his or her name is in the NRC, be a foreigner? It now appears that there is an incentive scheme for the police and tribunals to turn as many Indians into foreigners [as possible], whatever the religion,” Kailash Gupta, president of All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad told The Hindu.


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