15, Nov 2023 | CJP Team
On October 31, 2023 14 people from the Baksa district of Assam found themselves sent to Assam’s dreaded detention camp for foreigners.
These 14 people were escorted to the Matia Detention Camp, which has recently been renamed as a “Transit Camp.” The sudden action was the outcome of all of them declared “foreigners” by the infamous Foreigners Tribunal despite having requisite documents like other valid citizen of India; the FT judgements declaring several of them as foreigners have been criticised by the Gauhati High Court as well. Their detention has sparked widespread concern and fear in the region. Several of the detained include old and young alike – mothers, fathers, grandparents alike, many of them ranging from various parts of the Baksa district, such as Salbari, Gobhardan, Barama etc.
Every week, CJP’s dedicated team in Assam, comprising community volunteers, district volunteer motivators, and lawyers, provides vital paralegal support, counseling, and legal aid to many affected by the citizenship crisis in over 24 districts in Assam. Through our hands-on approach, 12,00,000 people successfully submitted completed NRC forms (2017-2019). We fight Foreigner Tribunal cases monthly at the district level. Through these concerted efforts, we have achieved an impressive success rate of 20 cases annually, with individuals successfully obtaining their Indian citizenship. This ground level data ensures informed interventions by CJP in our Constitutional Courts. Your support fuels this crucial work. Stand with us for Equal Rights for All #HelpCJPHelpAssam. Donate NOW!
What actually happened on October 31, 2023?
On that fatal day, October 31, families were summoned by the authorities for what they had believed to be routine documentation check at the local border branch at 8 am in the morning.
However, they found themselves facing a harrowing situation. By 2 pm, the people were summarily made to undergo a medical examinations on their way to Mushalpur Police Station; none of them had any clue what was happening. By that night at Mushalpur Police Station, there was a reportedly calculated attempt to separate family members from those who were about to be detained. This led to further chaos as family members were sent out of the police station, while their relatives remained inside with their fate unknown. There were cries and screams heard from the police station; it was evident now to all present that the remaining people were to be taken to detention camps. Those detained were not given any chance or intimation to prepare their belongings or inform family members at home.
As the night progressed, there was a handful of media persons who had managed to gather some information on the incident which is how news of the incident first got disclosed. Soon after, a detailed narration of the incident was disclosed to CJP’s team Assam by Ashraf Ali, who was with his father Jahur Ali and mother Sarifa Begum, until the police forcibly separated him from his parents.
Meet some of the detained
Citizens for Justice and Peace has collected the names of the 14 who are detained. A team from CJP has been regularly meeting some of the families affected by these detentions.
- Pariman Nessa from Bhakuamari, Salbari.
- Houshi Khatun from Bhakuamari, Salbari.
- Siddique Ali from Bherberi, Barama
- Faziran Begum from Bherbheri, Barama
- Anowara Khatun from Bhakuamari, Salbari
- Rahiman Nessa from Bhakuamari, Salbari.
- Jahur Ali from Garhbhitar, Barama
- Sarifa Begum from Garhbhitar, Barama.
- Maij Uddin from Raghabbil, Gobardhana.
- Amzad Ali from Bhakuamari, Salbari.
- Mukbul Hussain from Kuthurijhar, Gobardhana.
- Mafida Khatun from Kuthurijhar, Gobardhana.
- Hamida Khatun from Kuthurijhar, Gobardhana.
- Jahanara Khatun from Alengamari, Gobardhana.
CJP reaches out
The citizenship crisis in Assam transforms into a tool by state authorities that unleash anguish on people of poor, marginalised backgrounds. Based on accepted national and international humanitarian principles, Nanda Ghosh, CJP’s Assam State in-charge, and legal team member, Abhijit Chowdhury have been involved in some efforts to provide moral support, facilitate family meetings, offer legal aid where possible. In cases where victim families encounter grave challenges in even meeting detainees at the detention camp, CJP’s team in Assam has been assisting with facilitating these meetings. There seems to be an air of despondency and despair as families try to grapple with the loss of their loved ones to the detention camps. On one such visit by the team, a four year old who could not understand what has happened, asked, “Ora Maa’k niya gesega?” (“They took away my mother?”)
CJP’s Nanda Ghosh states that many of those detained have documents like any citizens of India. However, none of those proofs seem to hold any ground as heart-breaking stories of detentions have emerged from the ground.
During the team’s field visit, they encountered the heart-wrenching account of Korimon Nessa who is a member of the Deshi Muslim community. Korimon (Parimon) Nessa was taken from Bhakuamari village in Baksa district. A mother of three, her family continues to cope with her detention. Her husband is severely ill and disabled, and her three children are teenagers, who now have to take care of their father as well as other household duties.
CJP also came across the family of Haushi Khatun, one of the detainees, who has tried to visit the detention camp that Haushi was detained in. The family undertook the difficult and highly costly journey to the detention camp which is located at a remote location. Haushi’s husband narrated how Haushi was crying endlessly when she met them. Haushi’s 11-year-old son, Abdullah, dismal without his mother, told the team how, “Mother was only crying, and then I was also crying too. I have never been without my mother.”
Most of the 14 FT judgements came in the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021: several families have challenged these judgements in the Gauhati High Court.
Ashraf Ali further spoke to CJP about how inhumanely he was treated. Ali had been with his now-detained parents Jahur Ali and Sarifa Begum before he was separated from them. According to their voter identification documents, Jahur is about 85 years of age and his wife, Sarifa, about 79 years; both belong to the Goriya-Moriya Muslim community. Their son, Ashraf further states that not only do they have documents that are required by the government today, but they also have documents proving their presence in India from the times of the British Indian government. Many of these details of the family are corroborated by the village head (Gaon Burrah) Prabhat Das, who attests that Jahur Ali appeared for the matriculation exam in 1963 and first voted in 1965. Jahur and Sarifa’s young granddaughter could not control her tears when CJP’s team visited the family, the nine year old child asserted as she sobbed that her grandparents are not illegal immigrants or Bangladeshi.
CJP has only recently assisted over 50+ Indians to regain their citizenship. CJP’ Team Assam continues with its para-legal aid, documentation assistance and moral support for several of the families of the 14 affected detainees, most of whom will now seek legal recourse through the Gauhati High Court.
Presently, CJP’s team is having discussions with Korimon Nessa’s family, working with her documents, hopeful of making headway to approach the Gauhati High Court to help her and her family get justice. In the other cases wherever para-legal aid and documentation is required, the team is actively in the process of assisting.
 Assam’s Foreigners Tribunals function as quasi-judicial bodies which have the judicial capacity to decide on cases related to foreigners, non-citizens, and D-voters under the Foreigners Act, 1946. These detention camps have come under increasing scrutiny for the deplorable human rights conditions within and the controversial criteria used to identify and send detainees.
 In 2022, the Assam government officially acknowledged 4 million Assamese-speaking Muslims in the state as “indigenous Assamese Muslims,” and recognised them as a distinct part of the native Assamese community.