Citizens for Justice and Peace

CJP helps reunite detention camp inmate with his daughters in Assam Rahman Ali was released from a detention camp after CJP’s intervention

05, Jun 2020 | CJP Team

On Tuesday June 2, Rahman Ali, a Goria Muslim man belonging to an indigenous group in Assam, was released on conditional bail from the Goalpara Detention Camp after CJP stepped in to organise sureties and complete his bail formalities. But the true reward lay in reuniting Rahman with his three daughters.

39-year-old Rahman Ali hails from Moukhowa village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Manikpur police station in Bongaigaon district. He was declared ‘foreigner’ and sent to the Goalpara detention camp on May 22, 2018. Rahman left behind his wife Arjina Begum and three daughters Rinkuma, Rehana and Rojmina who was only 9 months old at the time!

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. We are also helping secure the release of detention camp inmates as per the Supreme Court order on their conditional release. 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.   

“I had a very complicated case and very limited finances. I didn’t think I would be able to see my daughters again,” Rahman said, overwhelmed with emotion as he was finally released. When he reached home and finally saw all his girls together, he could not contain his tears!

A complex family dispute

Rahman Ali was born into an extremely impoverished family. His father was a barber and could barely make ends meet with his income and often resorted to begging. He separated from his wife when Rahman was just 6-months old. But Rahman’s mother’s second husband, Machen Ali, a wealthy widower, was the one who raised Rahman assuring his mother that he would have equal property rights as his other children. He also gave Rahman’s mother one bhiga of land. When they grew up, all of Machen Ali’s other children sold off their land and moved out of the village to settle in Lakhimpur. The only land left was the one bhiga promised to Rahman Ali’s mother.

In his old age, an ailing Machen Ali became dependent on Rahman Ali who took care of both his aged parents. He took up fishing to support his family. After Machen Ali’s death, Rahman went on to work in his cousin’s home. This cousin also helped him find a suitable bride and arranged for a proper wedding for him. But later Rahman’s wife Arjina discovered that Rahman was allegedly just a glorified slave to his cousin and was only given some food to take back home to his mother and wife. When Arjina revolted, the relationship between Rahman and his cousin turned sour. They kept harassing Rahman and even his elderly mother by allegedly implicating them repeatedly in false cases. Then his mother too passed away.

The CJP Team discovered that it was the land that Machen left to Rahman’s mother that became the bone of contention between Rahman and his step siblings and cousins. Rahman claims that it was his step siblings and cousins who not only mistreated his mother, but also conspired against him and had him designated a suspected foreigner. Rahman’s case was heard before a Foreigners’ Tribunal that ended up ruling against him. Local villagers appear to know the entire sordid saga, yet none of them was willing to become a bailor for Rahman Ali when the CJP team approached them.

“The CJP team had to work continuously for over a month to find people willing to become bailors for Rahman Ali. We found almost all people of village Moukhowa are sympathetic to Rahman Ali but no one had the courage to stand by him as it would antagonize his socially influential cousin brothers who the villagers feared,” said Nanda Ghosh, CJP Volunteer Motivator for Lower Assam. “Finally, in the last 12 days before his release, CJP Assam state team coordinator Zamser Ali and I visited the village every day trying to convince people to become bailors. At last our efforts bore fruit and we were able to organise two people for the task,” says Nanda Ghosh.

CJP Advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim and advocate Prity Karmakar compiled the legal documents and thus Rahman Ali finally came out of the Goalpara Detention Camp on June 2, 2020 after spending two years and ten days away from his family.

Challenges ahead

But Rahman Ali’s troubles are far from over. When he was sent to the detention camp his eldest daughter, who was a student of fifth standard, was forced to drop out of school. She is 11-years-old now and CJP is committed to helping her resume her education from this academic year itself.

After Rahman Ali was sent to the detention camp his wife Arjina worked as a domestic help to put food on the table, but now that he is back, she hopes he can go back to being a tailor. “It would be good if my husband can get a sewing machine and start his tailoring work again,” Arjina told the CJP team who assured her of support in rebuilding their lives.

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