27, Aug 2021 | CJP Team
In yet another example of how sheer paranoia regarding “foreign infiltrators” has led to persecution of genuine Indian citizens in Assam, Dipak Deb, who originally hails from Tripura, was declared foreigner and was forced to spend five years behind bars in an Assam Detention Centre. But with CJP’s help, Dipak Deb was finally able to walk out of the Goalpara Detention Centre on August 25 and reunite with his ailing mother who feared she would die without meeting her son.
Deb is still traumatised by the experience he had while behind bars. “As soon as I went to the detention centre, I fell ill within a few days of being brought to the detention centre,” says Deb adding, “Then I was taken to the Goalpara hospital and Guwahati medical college wearing handcuffs!”
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!
Narrating yet another incident of similar humiliation of being treated like a common criminal, Deb says, “Once after that my leg became swollen and I was in severe pain, I was yet again made to wear handcuffs to be taken to the hospital. But this time I cried and said that we are not thieves or robbers, we are not criminals. We were born in this country. This is our country. We are not foreigners! Why were we being taken to hospital wearing handcuffs?”
However, this time Deb was not alone. “Some of the other detenus also protested with me, and I was taken to hospital without handcuffs,” recalls Deb of the day he was granted a small mercy by the detention centre authorities.
Then there was the matter of the poor quality of food. “I couldn’t keep down even a mouthful and would throw up,” says Deb. “We often went on hunger strikes, but nothing would change. So, one day, we decided to fast until death,” says Deb describing how they had to resort to extreme measures to just get basic things like food. “After seven days, some of us became seriously ill. That’s when authorities started talking to us. They heard our demands and the food quality improved subsequently,” Deb recalls another small victory.
But the bigger question is, why must anyone have to face such inhuman conditions in the first place? Detention Centres are notorious for the mysterious deaths of their inmates. “The newer inmates don’t know, but those of us who had been around for years had seen several people die. We were scared,” says Deb.
A darkness overcomes Deb’s face when he recalls the death of Subhrata De, about whom we have reported previously. “I was scared that day when Subrata Dey died! Because Subrata was healthy that day. I also talked to him but…” he trails off, leaving the haunting sentence unfinished. After a long pause, he said, “After his death, I began to wonder – will I be able to go home alive?”
Brief background of Dipak Deb’s case
45-year-old Dipak Deb is the son of Dhirendra Deb of Nadiapar village under Charaibari police station of Tripura North District, Tripura. Here’s a copy of his School Transfer certificate from Tripura.
And here’s a copy of his father’s name in the electoral rolls from 1956:
Finally, here’s a copy of Dipak Deb’s own voter ID:
A migrant labourer, he came to Assam looking for work. 15 years ago, he started working at the Guwahati Railway station canteen. He would also sell tea on the side for extra income. He lived in a rented accommodation and sent money back home to support his family.
But on November 3, 2016, Deb was arrested in connection with FT case no 791/2015 by Kamrup Metro Boarder Police of Assam, and sent to the Goalpara Detention Centre. Turns out, he was declared foreigner in an ex parte judgement by the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) No. 3 of Kamrup (Metro).
CJP steps in
“We found out about him when we were helping other detainees get released on conditional bail. But this was an unusual case, because in other cases, the detainees hail from Assam, but Deb is from Tripura. So, we started by tracing his family in Tripura,” explains Nanda Ghosh, CJP Assam state team in-charge.
This wasn’t easy, but CJP managed to find and contact his family in Tripura. “The family told us that another family member, Dhruva Deb, Dipak’s brother, also lives and works in Assam. So, then we looked for and found Dhruva Deb, a painter,” says Ghosh. “We found that he had faced such economic hardships during the lockdown that he was forced to sell vegetables to feed his family. His ailing mother had also moved in with him to be close to Dipak. Her dying wish was to see Dipak at least once,” says Ghosh. But CJP has experience in this area. Earlier, we had helped Lalit Thakur, a Bihari barber who was dubbed foreigner in Assam, walk out of a detention centre.
The next challenge was finding a bailor as Deb is from another state. “CJP Legal member Senior Advocate Abhijeet Chaudhury and I began searching for a bailor. Finally, we got one and started his paperwork, says Ghosh. “It was hard to get Deb released as he is from another state. We had to visit the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police (B), Guwahati several times. Finally, we finished all the process and he was released on August 25, 2021,” explains Ghosh.
The emotional reunion
After securing Deb’s release, we dropped him to his brother’s rental home in Guwahati’s Kenduhuri, which falls under the jurisdiction of Noonmati Police Station of Kamrup (Metro) district. 80-year-old Shefali Deb was emotionally overwhelmed to see her son after five years. She hugged him feeling relieved.
Later she also blessed the CJP team by placing her hand on our heads. “You gave me my son back. I pray to God to bless you, I give you my ashirwad,” she said. Dipak too was deeply moved to see his mother. “I’m seeing my Maa after so many years. She has become weak, but I’m so glad I could see her again,” he said. “I think I got a new life after five years,” said Dipak Deb, adding, “Thank you CJP!”