CJP Assam: Standing strong come hail, come storm Throughout CJP’s Team Assam tirelessly aids those impacted by the Assam citizenship crisis

12, Jun 2024 | CJP Team

In the past months that saw a shift from a blistering summer to devastation caused by flood after impacts of the Remal cyclone, CJP’s Team Assam continued determinedly in its successful efforts to assist Indians targeted by the debilitating citizenship crisis in Assam.

In Barpeta district in March 2024, CJP’s district voluntary motivator Abul Kalam Azad visited the house of Sahela Khatun from Chirang district in Chhatipur – Indo – Bhutan area – it is not very far twice or once a month. She has been freshly released for detention after working with another lawyer. After she got her bail, when she was still quite nervous. However, the process did not stop there for her, neither did CJP’s work. CJP’s DVM accompanied her to the court for the procedural hearings every week.

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!

This serves as a stark example illustrating CJP’s approach on an everyday level as well as a large part of their approach. Rehabilitation and counselling of former detainees and those currently struggling to prove their citizenship remains a high priority for the Team CJP.

Why counselling?

The CJP team undertakes 20 – 40 counselling sessions in a week. The citizenship crisis wreaks havoc on the people who are caught in its snares. Their whole lives are changed forever. CJP keeps in touch with them, tells them not to worry about money and provides legal help wherever and whenever needed. The situation is extremely dire and death is something that victims continuously see as something that provides them relief. Some even look forward to it. As of 2022 CJP had listed over 29 suicides related to the citizenship crisis since 2017.

The released detainees have to show up at weekly appearances and face a lot of hurdles which many are not financially and psychologically equipped to handle. In some cases, even the family members see death as a resolution to being labelled a foreigner. This happens especially in the case of the elderly who are charged with foreigner notice. In some cases, their family would think that given their age they will soon die and the issue will be resolved, and then they do not contest the cases against their parents, especially if they are over the ages of 70s. People with little to no resources and that are on the fringes of society often will be unable to bear the burden of fighting a case. However, this is even insidious for a family, because if a person who is served an FT notice does not attend his summons at court, he is declared a foreigner by default under the ex parte judgment. This furthermore puts all the descendants of the person also in danger. Most of the affected people do not know this. Team CJP counsels people on these issues.

Secondly one of the most difficult struggles in counselling is the old people who are physically and mentally weakened over the age. They themselves often say, in many cases, that they don’t have the will to fight the case. “They have become tired.” Nandu Ghosh says, “They have to go report themselves every week for years. Even if someone got cleared of charges in 2004 or 2017, they have to keep going for years every week, despite their age. People get very affected, they keep saying why should we go for so long, we were born here not in Bangladesh. They often also say we don’t have money to eat, its better we die.”

The team finds it the most difficult because it is the most challenging, yet it remains important to the team who makes sure to take up such cases. In 2022, CJP helped 98 year old Moyna Barman, a Koch Rajbongshi woman, regain her citizenship. A year later, the team also attended her funeral to pay their last respects to the resilient struggle of the lady.

CJP’s approach is not linked to just providing hard-and-fast victories from a remote office. These success stories have immense deeply layered ground work behind them. Their work is grounded, catered to the needs of the helpless, and comprehensive. Here are some testimonials from the ground from 2024 that will display the approach CJP holds on ground.

Shantibala Ray

In April, Abul Kalam Azad visited Shantibala Ray, a visually impaired woman, at her house in Chirang. She was released with the help of CJP in 2020. She had spent almost 4 years in a detention camp. Yet, even four years later, CJP’s team visited her, checked in on her health, and her weekly appearances. CJP is regularly ensuring that the DVM’s assist the elderly people, released detainees, in making their weekly visits to the police station, as is required by the law.

Mojiron Bibi

Here is another resounding example of the way Team CJP continues to maintain a proactive and compassionate stance on the field. This is the brave story of Mojiron Bibi and the impactful and life changing effect of meeting CJP’s team. Mojiran Bibi is from the small village of Jhapusabari, in Assam’s Dhubri district. Her life took a harrowing turn, when two men on a bike arrived at her house one evening, and handed her a white piece of paper and instructed her to appear in court. As Mojiron trembled as she spoke about the incident, she had gotten the dreaded “foreigner notice” from the police.

The team could understand that Mojiron was in shock as she was born and raised in her village and had always believed in herself as an Indian. Her father had voted since 1960, and she herself had never missed an election. Thus, she was shattered when the notice turned up.

Mojiron sought legal help, however, help was difficult initially. An advocate demanded 3,000 rupees. Her entire earning for the month was about 3,000 rupees. She lived with her young grandson on borrowed land, and her daughter worked at a brick factory. Poverty and lack of resources left her at the edge of despair.

One day she broke down in tears while making some photocopies of documents at the market. It was there in 2022 that Jinnar Hossain, a community volunteer with the CJP found her. Jinnar assured her that the CJP would handle her case and that she need not fear the police. With CJP’s help, Mojiron got the courage to attend her first hearing, despite never having left her home alone before. CJP’s advocate assured her of their full support, free of charge.

Mojiron Bibi’s story is a testament to CJP’s unwavering commitment to aiding marginalised people in Assam and helping them navigate the terrifying trajectory of legal battles to reclaim their rightful identity.

Pinki Das

In the remote village of Padmapur in Chirang district, Pinki Das found herself once again struggling to survive bureaucratic nightmares. Her name was included in the NRC, however, she was unable to apply for an Aadhaar card due to the fact that she had already submitted her biometric details during NRC verification. Like several others CJP has helped, Pinki was also stuck.

In March 2024, CJP’s DVM Abul Kalam Azad visited Pinki at her home to discuss the issue after the team came to know about it. After the meeting, Pinki provided her documents to CJP. CJP has been collecting information from those deprived of Aadhaar cards due to the fact that their name is in the NRC.

CJP’s DVM assured Pinki that the organisation is going to actively work for her case. CJP will file a case in the courts, after having gathered these documents, to help not just Pinki but several others who have been caught in the middle of this systemic hurdle.

Similarly, over the year the team ensures that the victims are mentally supported throughout their legal procedures. Currently, the team details that over 20-40 people per week are counselled. Similarly, the team is invested in not just giving lawyers to the victims – but also copiously looks at the documents and historical records for proof of the victims. It is an arduous process that takes the team across districts, and even states. For instance, school certificates are taken from Block Development Offices, or birth certificates or parent’s voting records.

This process is not a single day event, Nanda Ghosh says. Government offices function at their own pace, and it may even take several days to get one document.

Documentation and awareness

The team has been steadily working on creating awareness for people and assisting them in making sure their documents are in order. The on grounds intensive work is done by the team regularly. One of the core issues they target is when people lose their documents due to erosion, migration, or administrative hurdles. One major issue for the people of Assam has been documentation, which has been further complicated by the NRC procedure.

Today there are about 27 lakh people who are without an Aadhaar card. This is because of the NRC procedure. In the first NRC list, about 40 lakh people were excluded from the list. In the second list, 21 more people got their names included, and the final list as of now has excluded some 19 lakh people. However, out of the total group of people that were excluded in the first list, about 27 lakh people were denied Aadhaar, because in updating their details for the second NRC list, they had to enter their biometric details. Thus, when they went on to make their Aadhaar cards after this procedure, they found that their biometric details were rejected. People could not access student scholarships, ration, government schemes due to this administrative hurdle, even though they may have all their other identification related documents. The team has been trying to assist those affected by this issue as well by documenting and compiling such people.

Another issue is one that comes up in the voter lists. The marginalised in Assam often have to shift from their birth places to other locales. The reason may be floods, soil erosion, migration for work, for marriage etc. In this process, their names in the voting list have to be added in the new district they move to. This is often hampered, because the administration will look at their voting records from their previous district and will not recognise the individual; they will declare such a person a foreigner.

The CJP team engages in voter awareness regularly, and not just during elections. Slight and minute mistakes in one’s name and age can often be the factor that pushed a person in Assam to becoming stateless and getting declared a foreigner. CJP’s team engages in helping people update voter lists not just for new voters, or voters who have moved districts but also for voters who have passed away. The team does this twice a year when the correction window for the voting lists is opened by the Election Commission of India. They also try to make sure that people are not terrorised by the strange and daunting process of proving themselves a citizen again. Nandu Ghosh notes the fear that grips people and says that people in Assam who are affected feel being suspected as a foreigner is akin to a death sentence.

Armed with constitutional principles, Citizens for Justice and Peace takes Assam’s humanitarian and legal challenges head on. And over these years, touching countless lives, CJP has continued to play an irreplaceable role in providing legal aid and support to scores of people at risk of having their citizenship taken from them.

The team, which is completely boots-on-ground in its approach, has assisted marginalised people, ensuring they have access to necessary documentation and legal representation. Along with that, CJP has also been involved in raising awareness about the fundamental rights, and potential human rights violations associated with the NRC, and legal awareness.

The organisation has been conducting workshops, offering legal and psychological counselling, as well as raising the issue of fair and transparent procedures, CJP has been a steadfast source of support, compassion and help to the marginalised who are the worst affected by the NRC. In a recent field visit, CJP’s team member and state-in charge Nanda Ghosh was even called a ‘son’ by a lady from Assam who had received successful legal assistance by the team.

Throughout the year, CJP’s approach also includes keeping in touch with local communities, legal experts, and human rights advocates to create a strong support network for the affected people. As a result of this, in 2023 alone, the team witnessed 18 success stories, these 18 people were successfully saved from the terrifying prospect of becoming stateless. Each of these 18 success stories showed the organisation’s efforts to provide all-round legal support to those wrongfully excluded from the NRC. CJP’s team worked tirelessly to gather and present crucial documentation, prepare proper legal arguments, and go through the legal processes with the victims. Their tireless efforts ensured that these people could reclaim their status as Indian citizens. As of now, over 51 people have been helped regain their citizenship by CJP.


 CJP Victory! After 3 years of a legal battle, freedom fighter’s daughter, Seje Bala Ghosh, is finally declared Indian

 Frequently Asked Questions: Understanding the Citizenship Crisis in Assam

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CJP moves NCM against Shiladitya Dev for targeting the ‘Miya Muslim’ community of Assam

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