Assam's relentless quest to banish illegal citizens from the state has met with many an embarrassment as people belonging to a particular community who have served the country's forces for years together are not even spared. Worse, they are asked to prove their citizenship irrespective of the tenure and organisation they served.
As the state shares porous borders with Bangladesh, illegal immigration remains an unsolved problem so far. However, the process differentiating actual citizens from the fake ones is quite complex due to various reasons. Although the state has the Foreigners' Tribunal to identify false citizens it is far from being a foolproof one and often runs into controversies.
Retired IAF personnel suspected as a foreigner
Order notices to Samsul Hoque Ahmed and his wife Nurjahan Ahmed from the Foreigners' Tribunal court in Barpeta asking the addressees to prove citizenship surprised everyone. A shocked Ahmed who is a resident of Balikuri locality under Kalgachia police station in Barpeta district asked, "How a person, who has served the India Air Force for 35 years of life, can be suspected as a foreigner?"
Ahmed, son of late Fazar Ali, matriculated from Kadong High School in 1978, joined the IAF in 1979. He married Nurjahan (born in 1966, daughter of Abdul Hamid and Adarjan Nessa) in 1983 and the couple has two children, one born at Guwahati and the other at Delhi during his service tenure. He exercised his electoral right until 1997 after which got marked as D-voter.
D-voters or Doubtful Voters are those people who are identified during electoral roll revision as D-voters and either their cases concerning their citizenship are pending with the Foreigners' Tribunals or are already declared as foreigners by the tribunal.
While in service Ahmed was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Rajasthan, Gujarat and various other places in the country. He retired in 2015.
Although Ahmed knew of being marked as a doubtful voter, he could not do anything because of his short leaves during service. After he retired, Ahmed started facing problems regarding the issuance of documents from government offices. He was not qualified for a driving license, passport and cannot buy or sell land. In addition to these hardships, his children working in the US could not get their passports renewed as their father was marked as D-voter.
They submitted about 26 kinds of particulars from 1938 onwards at the Foreigners' Tribunal court in order to achieve a judgment in their favour.
Army personnel and his wife get illegal immigration notice from Foreigners' Tribunal
Mahir Uddin was born in 1964 in Khablarbhita village under Kayakuchi outpost of Barpeta district in Assam. Son of late Basir Uddin, Mahir passed his HSLC examination in 1980 from Kayakuchi Higher Secondary School and joined the Army Ordinance Corp at Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh. He married Husniara Ahmed, daughter of late Sarbesh Ali of Kumumullipara of the same district in 1989. He retired from Bathinda, Punjab after serving the army for 18 years and kept working till 1996 in an Army Public School in Punjab even after retirement. He was dumbstruck on receipt of a notice suspecting his citizenship on 29 September this year.
Besides Mahir's father being an Indian citizen, his brother, Jalal Uddin Ahmed retired as assistant judge of the district sessions court and another brother Alauddin Ahmed is a Central government employee.
"What would the common people do when we, having such background, are receiving notices from the Foreigners’ Tribunal ordering authentication of citizenship? It is a matter of acute sadness. I must say this is illegal. If I am not an Indian citizen, how can I join the Indian Army? The army recruitment rules are so strict that they would not allow any ineligible person to join the service," Mahir said.
Husniara Ahmed, Mahir’s wife, was born in 1971 and her father’s name was enrolled in the electoral roll of 1966. Though she travelled and lived in different parts of the country following the trails of her husband’s service, she cast her vote regularly. Out of the blue, she was also served similar notice.
JCO serves nation but gets notice questioning citizenship
A similar notice was served to Mohd Azmal Hoque but owing to mass and media outrage, the police dropped the case quoting that is was a case of mistaken identity. Haque served the Indian Army for 30 years of his life. Born in 1968 to Makbul Hussain and Rahiman Nessa, Ajmal was a brilliant school student and passed matriculation in the first division in 1985. He reared dreams of serving the country and so joined the army as a craftsman. His brilliance led him to many promotions and he retired as a Junior Commission Officer. For his valour he was provided an ode by APJ Abdul Kalam, the then president of India.
His father is enrolled in the 1966 electoral roll and his mother is registered in the NRC of 1951. It is, in fact, astonishing how this brave man could be notified for authentication of citizenship. Interestingly, Azmal’s wife was also asked to prove her citizenship in 2012. He mended it the very year without knowing that he will fall prey to similar malice after a few years.
Azmal expresses his dissatisfaction on modus operandi of Assam Police and said, "There should be a level of investigation before suspecting citizenship of a native. It is unconstitutional to send notices to people just because they have Ali or Hoque in their names."
"The chief minister (Sarbananda Sonowal) has directed that the matter should be investigated expeditiously and accountability for lapses, if any, resulting in the wrong service of the notice," DGP Mukesh Sahay said. Sahay had to clarify the fact of notifying Azmal as a mistake. He stated that he had received information of one Azmal Hoque, son of Makbul Husain crossing the borders of Indo-Bangladesh and living at Boko. Hoque responded that Sahay lied in order to protect the police officer who notified him under some kind of ill-planning. He asserted that there are no persons named as Azmal Hoque son of Makbul Husain at Kalahikakh village under Boko Police Station other than himself. Azmal also cited that his wife Mamtaz Begum was asked to prove her citizenship in 2012 and that it was no mistake. Recently, one of his nephews was also served a similar notice.
"How can they send a notice out of the blue, without any investigation in the first place?" Hoque’s lawyer Aman Wadud asked.
While there was a tumult in the national level regarding the case of Hoque, former Assam chief minister and veteran Congress leader said that the army man was served notice to prove his citizenship only because he was a Muslim. The police officer involved in this menace must be discharged soon. Muslims in Assam are suffering from acute insecurity, he said.
Assam Police ASI accused as illegal foreigner
Shah Alam Bhuyan is serving as an assistant sub-inspector of Assam Police and yet he got accused of being an illegal immigrant in 1997. For the last 20 years, he remains marked as D voter by Election Commission without any investigation until the tribunal held him an Indian citizen on 28 March this year.
Bhuyan's father was a freedom fighter, a confidant of former chief minister Mahendra Mohan Choudhury. His father fought against the British, yet he received a quit India notice. Alom's house was also burnt down during the Assam Agitation (1979-1985).
Assam Police constable notified to prove Indian citizenship
Abu Taher Ahmed, an Assam Police constable from South Salmara Police Station in Dhubri District, also got a notice accusing him of being an illegal foreigner from the Foreigners' Tribunal. The policeman who has been in service for over 10 years had been asked to appear in court with legal documents to prove his citizenship.
"I was shocked and didn't know how to react when I got the notice. I have been in the Assam Police force for more than ten years and all my documents and details were checked many times before I joined the service," said. The notice asked Ahmed to be present at the Foreigners' Tribunal court to prove his citizenship.
Ahmed was finally held as an Indian by the tribunal in September this year.
Updated Date: Nov 14, 2017 23:20 PM