17, Dec 2020 | CJP Team
Chandrahar Das, a registered refugee from Bangladesh, was declared ‘foreigner’ as the Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease afflicted man, arrested at the age of 101, could not recall when he crossed into the country!
Over half a century ago, when Chandrahar Das was a young man, he fled Bangladesh and made his way to Assam via Tripura. A refugee, he even obtained a certificate of registration. But all of that appeared to have been in vain, when he was arrested and thrown into a detention camp three years ago… at the age of 101! He died on December 13, 2020, at the age of 104, still asserting his Indianness.
CJP’s Cachar District Volunteer Motivator, Kamal Chakraborty, says, “He was old and had no memory and appeared to be in a delirium. Every time I met him, he would only say that he is an Indian and wants to vote for Modi!” He added, “Many times, Das would think that he was still in Tripura!”
Now that the final NRC has been published, and 19,06,657 people have been excluded from the final list, CJP’s campaign has become even more focused. Our objective now, is to help these excluded people defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals. For this we have already started conducting a series of workshops to train paralegals to assist people at FTs. We will also be publishing a multi-media training manual containing simplified aspects of legal procedure, evidentiary rules, and judicial precedents that will ensure the appeals filed against the NRC exclusions in the FTs are comprehensive and sound, both in fact and in law. This will assist our paralegals, lawyers and the wider community in Assam to negotiate this tortuous process. For this we need your continued support. Please donate now to help us help Assam.
When Das was first served notice, he was already at an advanced age, but was forced to work as a vegetable vendor to feed his impoverished family. But he had to stop working when his dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and heart condition intensified. The family scraped together their meagre savings to defend his citizenship before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT), but his deteriorating health prevented him from appearing or even submitting a written statement giving details and proving the authenticity of his documents. The FT ruled against him ex parte and Das was forced to spend three months behind bars before he was released on June 27, 2018.
The FT judgment may be viewed here:
Chandrahar Das’s Refugee Registration certificate, and name in the Voters’ List may be viewed here:
Chandrahar Das passed away in Boraibasti in Assam’s Chachar district, leaving behind a 93-year old wife and a daughter Nyuti, who now faces the spectre of being declared foreigner herself by virtue of being the daughter of a declared foreigner. Das also has a son who lives in a neighbouring village.
Chakraborty says, “Both of Das’s children’s names were included in the 2018 draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), but excluded from the final list in 2019.” The family is extremely impoverished and lives on the kindness of neighbours and aid organisations.
The family lives in the Barack Valley of Assam which is home to many Hindu Bengalis. The community often faces accusations of being “illegal migrants” in a state where citizenship concerns have led to violence and bloodshed. Bengali Hindus are facing even greater opposition in wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that permits the grant of Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It may be recalled that the Assam Agitation that led to the signing of the Assam Accord was clearly against the alleged influx of all illegal Bangladeshi migrants, irrespective of their religion.
Das, even in his last delirium filled days, expressed hope that he would be declared Indian… but alas!