15, May 2020 | CJP Team
On Wednesday, May 13, CJP helped Purnima Biswas and Harimohan Barman, step out of Assam’s infamous detention camps and reunite with their families. So far, we have helped 25 such people across the state secure release from detention camps in Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Jorhat and Tezpur. Here’s a closer look at their cases.
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.
Harimohan Barman: The tea seller who ended up being declared foreigner
This 58-year-old hails from Dhupguri village in Chirang district. He had been languishing in the Goalpara detention camp since July 29, 2017. He was referred to the foreigners’ tribunal in Chirang after being dubbed a suspected foreigner. Later the FT pronounced him a declared foreigner and sent him to a detention camp.
The family is incredibly impoverished and had exhausted most of their meagre savings to fight Barman’s case. Later they were forced to sell of the 13 lechas of land that they owned to fund the medical needs of Barman’s older son Ratan. Now, all that they have is a 120 sq ft tin and bamboo shed where the family lives together. The family doesn’t even have any furniture, not even a bed!
Harimohan used to work at a tea shop where he earned a meagre Rs 160 a day. In Harimohan’s absence his wife Moina started working at the same establishment, but was often forced to skip work on account of her own deteriorating health. Their son works as a labourer earning a daily wage.
“We had to work for three months to arrange for bailers and ensure their documents were properly verified. On the last day, we ended up spending the entire day at the office of the superintendent of police to complete the final leg of formalities,” said Nada Ghosh, Volunteer Motivator, Lower Assam who worked on this case with advocate Dewan Abdul Rahim, Volunteer Motivators Abul Kalam Azad and Pranjal Choudhury, and Community Volunteer Pijush Chakraborty.
With CJP’s efforts, Harimohan walked free on Wednesday and our team dropped him home. But, Harimohan is in ill health and fainted shortly after reaching home while alighting from the vehicle. The CJP team had to administer glucose to the ailing man to help him. Later he told us, “I am finally out of that place, thanks to CJP. I know the government cannot give me back the time that I spent behind bars. But maybe they can help me and others like me after we come out of detention camps.”
Moina too is relieved to have her husband back but minces no words about the challenges that lie ahead for the family. She told CJP, “My husband is back, but he is sick now and I am sick too. My son, who did not work before, is now working as a daily labourer. But our family is still in a state of disrepair. It is really very difficult for us to attending police station in every week. If the government would have set some condition other than the requirement for weekly attendance, it would have been better for us given our health and finances.”
Now, CJP is trying to arrange for a sustainable means of livelihood for the family.
Purnima Biswas: A widow who couldn’t bid her husband goodbye
The biggest regret of 58-year-old Purnima Biswas’s life is not being able to see her husband Hira before his death and bid him a proper goodbye. A suspected foreigner, Biswas was declared foreigner and sent to the Kokrajhar detention camp where she was been behind bars for the last 2 years and 10 months. Biswas hails from Juilaga village near the Bhutan border in Chirnag district and was arrested by the police when she had gone to offer prayers at a Shiva temple!
“I used to wear coloured sarees, sindoor, shankha and pala when I went to jail. Now I wear white and no sindoor or shankha-pala. My husband died six months after I was incarcerated. I didn’t even see him for the last time. I couldn’t even attend his funeral,” she says. When she first about her husband’s death she fainted. Four days later when her younger son visited her, jail authorities cut down their visitation time to just 30 minutes fearing another fainting spell or emotional trauma to Biswas.
“It was traumatic for me to hand over a white saree to my mother and request her to avoid eating onions, garlic and non-vegetarian food as is customary in case of death in our community. But she understood. We pleaded for more time, but her emotional state was fragile,” recalls her younger son. The older son performed all formalities related to Hira’s death. “We had to choose between my father’s funeral and visiting my mother in the detention camp,” he recalls.
“CJP team worked on her case for two months arranging for bailors and documentation verification. But the bigger question is what happens next. This family is below poverty line and has already undergone extreme trauma,” says Nanda Ghosh, who also worked on this case with advocate Dewan Abdul Rahim, Volunteer Motivators Abul Kalam Azad and Pranjal Choudhury, and community volunteer Pijush Chakraborty.
CJP also arranged for permissions as well three vehicles to ferry the detainees and their bailors. We also ensured that both Barman and Biswas were dropped home safely while following all social distancing protocols.
CJP would also like to thank the following people for their help in getting Barman and Biswas released: Jana Murmu, Mithun Adhikary, Ratan Goswami, Sushil Sharma, Mandir Barman, Chaya Rani Barman, Umar Ali, Mrinal Kanti Saha, Swagata Mitra and Najrul Islam. CJP team members namely Volunteer Motivator Pranay Tarafdar and Community Volunteers Papiya Das and Aminul Islam also played a key role in the efforts.