28, Aug 2021 | CJP Team
We had recently brought to you the story of Dipak Deb, a man from Tripura, who was declared foreigner and thrown into a detention centre in Assam. His fellow inmate, Mrinal Mandal suffered the same fate – being declared foreigner despite hailing from West Bengal. But after spending 735 days behind bars, Mandal was able to walk out of the Goalpara detention centre with CJP’s help, incidentally on the same day that we also helped Dipak Deb get released.
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 41 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!
55-year-old Mrinal Mandal, son of Bhagirath Mandal, originally hails from Munchipara village, that falls under the jurisdiction of the Alipurduar police station of what was previously a part of Jalpaiguri district, but now comes under Alipur district of West Bengal.
Mandal married an Assamese woman and moved to Assam subsequently. He set up a grocery shop that provided for his family. But then on August 22, 2019, Mandal was arrested in connection with FT case no 322/2018 by Kamrup (Metro) Border police of Assam, and sent to the Goalpara Detention Centre. This despite Mandal having built a life with his Assamese wife and daughter in Guwahati. Perhaps an incompetent, and possibly biased system, just saw the Bengali speaking man as an outsider… a Bangladeshi!
After his incarceration, Mandal’s family fell on hard times and his wife was forced to sell the grocery shop and move in with her sister. His daughter Bhisha, who was nine at the time and was studying in an English-medium private school, had to now move to a vernacular medium government school.
CJP steps in
“We had heard about Mrinal Mandal during our visits to free other inmates from the Goalpara Detention Centre. As soon as we found out that he was actually from another state, we reached out o his family in West Bengal,” says CJP Assam state team in-charge Nanda Ghosh. “With the help of our sources we were able to get the phone number of his brother Bhuban and contacted him. Then the entire family came to Assam to meet him,” says Ghosh.
CJP then quickly started putting together the paperwork for his release. “It wasn’t difficult to get a bailor as his wife is Assamese and her sister helped us find a person who fit the requirements,” says Ghosh. This paved the way for his release on August 25, 2021.
“As soon as we finished the formalities, Mandal requested to speak with his mother. We dialed the number and watched as both mother and sun had a conversation made of silence and tears,” recalls Ghosh. Mandal then told his brother, “Dada, please don’t worry. Tell Maa I’ll come home soon.”
Once we reached the home of Mandal’s wife’s sister, he had an emotional reunion with BHisha who is 11 now. We captured this priceless moment on camera, where Bhisha sat on her father’s lap, even as his niece sat by his side.
His family has a few serious concerns now. Mandal needs to report to the police station each week as part of his bail conditions.
But this means he cannot return home to West Bengal. Meanwhile, as he does not have his grocery shop any more, he needs to find a way to provide for his wife and daughter.
CJP would like to thank Gogul Saha (West Bengal), Aktar Ali, Mrinal Kanti Saha, Sushanta Kar and Adv. Abhijeet Choudhury for their invaluable help in this endeavour.
Some images from Mandal’s release may be viewed here: