09, Jun 2023 | CJP Team
In a significant triumph, a resident of Bongaigaon, Assam, Hajema Khatun @Hujema Khatun, wrongly suspected of being a foreigner by the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Bongaigaon District, has finally been declared an Indian citizen. Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), dedicated to fighting for justice and equality, played a pivotal role in supporting Hajema throughout her ordeal.
It was in 2020, that Hajema Khatun, for the first time, found herself entangled in the challenging procedure of the Foreigners Tribunal. She was from an extremely poor background. Her husband was a daily labourer who worked tirelessly to support their family while Hajema faced these baseless allegations of foreign origin.
Every day of each week, a formidable team of community volunteers, district volunteer motivators and lawyers—CJP’s Team Assam – is providing ready at hand paralegal guidance, counselling and actual legal aid to hundreds of individuals and families paralysed by the citizenship-driven humanitarian crisis in the state. Our boots on the ground approach has ensured that 12,00,000 persons filled their forms to enlist in the NRC (2017-2019) and over the past one year alone we have helped release 52 persons from Assam’s dreaded detention camps. Our intrepid team provides paralegal assistance to, on an average of 72-96 families each month. Our district-level, legal team works on 25 Foreigner Tribunal cases month on month. This ground level data ensures informed interventions by CJP in our Constitutional Courts, the Guwahati High Court and the Supreme Court. Such work is possible because of you, individuals all over India, who believe in this work. Our maxim, Equal Rights for All. #HelpCJPHelpAssam. Donate NOW!
Born to Hajrat Ali Sheikh and Jafiran Nessa (also known as Jafiran Begum) around the year 1977. Hajema Khatun was born in 1977 in Garugaon Part-I village, which was formerly part of undivided Goalpara and is now located in Bongaigaon District. She grew up in the same village and later married Julfikar Ali, settling with her husband and his family in Dankinamari village, Bongaigaon district.
Hajema’s father passed away on May 20, 2017, while her mother, Jafiran Nessa (also known as Jafiran Begum) is believed to have passed away around the year 2014.
The FT notice brought immense distress to Hajema and her family, but things took a turn for the better when they received timely support from CJP. Being financially disadvantaged and unable to afford legal representation, the family found relief in CJP’s unwavering commitment to justice. The organisation not only took up her case but also ensured her presence at court hearings by arranging transportation, going above and beyond to support her in her fight for justice.
Major Lapses by Officials
The case against Hajema Khatun was registered in 2007, but Hajema received notice of it only in 2020, after a lapse of 13 years, thereby exceeding the legal time limit for investigation. This unjust delay added to the already arduous journey for Hajema and her family.
The investigating officer (IO) responsible for the case submitted an inquiry report filled with falsehoods and unfounded claims against Hajema. Shockingly, the IO failed to conduct a proper investigation and never even visited Hajema’s home or the residences of the alleged witnesses mentioned in the report. This lack of due diligence resulted in the inclusion of fabricated statements from Hajema and the supposed witnesses, painting an inaccurate picture of the case.
Furthermore, the IO failed to seize and submit any supporting documents, including passports or other relevant paperwork, to substantiate the claim that Hajema was a foreign national. The investigation process was marred by serious procedural flaws, with the IO neglecting to obtain a statement from Hajema herself and failing to issue any notices or provide an opportunity for her to prove her citizenship.
The legal battles
The legal case surrounding Hajema Khatun revolves around her claim to be the daughter of the late Hazrat Ali Sheikh and Jafiran Nessa, and her assertion of Indian citizenship. Hajema Khatun’s argument rests on the premise that her grandparents, Saraddin Sheikh and Sokina Bibi, were Indian citizens, and therefore, she too is entitled to Indian citizenship. The provided voter lists indicate that her grandparents were registered voters in the past, further bolstering her claim. Additionally, the land records from Garugaon demonstrate ownership of property by her father, Hazrat Ali Sheikh, affirming his Indian citizenship and establishing his relationship as her parent.
Besides this already sufficient proof, Hajema Khatun has also submitted various identity documents such as voter identity cards and a ration card, which serve as evidence of her own existence as an Indian citizen. These documents, along with the next of kin certificate, validate her relationship to Hazrat Ali Sheikh as his daughter.
The historical records of Khatun’s family played a crucial role in shaping the court’s decision. Moreover, Hajema Khatun’s active participation in Indian electoral proceedings, alongside her husband, underscored her integration into the democratic process.
Ultimately, the court found the evidence in favour of Khatun’s citizenship compelling and conclusive and a delegation from CJP, including Assam State Incharge Nanda Ghosh, Advocate Dewan Andur Rahim, and Advocate Sahidur Rahman from the legal team, visited Hajema Khatun’s residence to deliver the long-awaited FT judgement copy.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Hajema expressed her heartfelt appreciation to the CJP team, offering her blessings, “May Allah bless you.”
The victory attained by Hajema not only affirms her Indian citizenship but also sheds light on the challenges faced by women in Assam as they face baseless suspicions and navigate the intricate process of proving their nationality. The successful outcome of Hajema’s case serves as a testament to the invaluable work carried out by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) which tirelessly stands for the rights of marginalised individuals and strives to create a more just society.
Hajema’s victory not only brings relief to her and her family but also sets an important precedent in the ongoing fight for justice in Assam. It exposes the flaws and shortcomings within the investigation process, highlighting the need for stricter adherence to due process and the proper collection of evidence. The case underscores the urgency of addressing the plight of minority women who find themselves unjustly targeted and subjected to lengthy legal battles. It calls for a comprehensive reassessment of the system to ensure that innocent individuals are not subjected to unnecessary hardships and delays.
Hajema Khatun’s story is a powerful reminder that together, through collective efforts, we can overcome barriers and achieve justice for all. The fight for a just society continues, and CJP will continue to play a pivotal role in advocating for those who are marginalised and ensuring their voices are heard.
The full judgment copy can be read here.