03, Oct 2022 | CJP Team
The hands-on work by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) at the grassroots in several districts of Assam has yielded another victory. 55-year-old Mamotaz Begum, a differently-abled person, sent a notice by Assam’s now-dreaded Foreigners’ Tribunals in 2009, may finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Living under the cloud of ‘being a foreigner’ in Assam’s Dharai (Kaklipara) village, in Goalpara district, she was finally declared Indian on August 25, 2022. We received a copy of her order on September 19, 2022, and handed it to the hapless woman who has been living in fear for 13 years!
The victory has brought the light back into Mamotaz Begum’s lifeless eyes. She said, “May God give you more courage to fight for people. Nobody stands for anyone these days, but you seem like farishta (angel).”
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 over 50 people 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!
Brief background of the case
Mamotaz Begum, is the daughter of Rohima Khatun Bibi and Abdul Mazidand wife of Bajlur Rahman. She is a resident ofDharai (Kaklipara) village, which falls within the Lakhipur police jurisdiction in the Goalpara district of Assam.
Her father Abdul Mazid’s name was first recorded in the Kaim Singrarpak village, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Bilashipara Police station and the Bilashipara Constituency, in 1959. However, he then moved to Kajipara (part II) village, which falls under the Bilashipara Police Station. He had also recorded his name at this new place. Their earlier constituency had changed to Kokrajhar East. At Kokrajhar East Legislative Assembly Constituency (LAC), Abdul Mazid’s name appears in the voter lists from 1966 and 1970.
Mamotaz was born in the Kajipara (pt II) village, which is part of the Bilashipara Police station in what was then the Dhubri district of Assam. Mamotaz finished her high school at the Chapar H.S. School. She got married in the year 1987, registered her name to the voter list in the year 1988. She then continued to vote until the most recent election. Her and her husband’s named appear in voters’ lists from 1988 to 2022.
However, Mamotaz has not had an easy life. Tragedy struck Mamotaz Begum in 2009, when she met with an accident and became disabled. She has since then been unable to function independently or move freely, and relies on family support.
But her hardships did not end there. Within a few months of the accident, the Lakhipur Border Branch served her notice (447/2009) saying she was a suspected foreigner, and directed her to defend her citizenship before an FT. A heartless administration didn’t even take into account how she was suffering from a disability, and went on to targetand compel her to prove her citizenship.
The family lacked the resources and the money to hire a lawyer and pursue the case in the FT. In addition to this, her physical impairment made attending the tribunal all but impossible. She barely ever managed her household tasks. Digging deep into reserves of strength, she fought hard and alone and displaying intrepid courage, strode forth to establish her citizenship. However, when she went to speak out to claim justice, her bravery waned, and she was left with little choice but to return home because she lacked the resources to pay the sum requested to support her claim.
CJP steps in to offer legal aid
A heartbroken Mamotaz Begum spoke to many people, seeking help. Soon, some locals referred her to CJP, given the organisation’s previous work in helping people facing similar predicaments.
CJP got her case on March 10, 2022. ZesminSultana and RashminaraBegum, two of CJP’s District Volunteer Motivators (DVMs)met her and the family. Rashminara Begum, was once herself thrown behind bars, after being accused of being a foreigner despite hailing from a family of freedom fighters. The CJP team gathered all documents required for pursuing the case, and then closely studied them. We assured her of the organisation’s complete support.
We immediately swung into action and started helping Mamotaz Begum by preparing documentation that needed to be submitted before the FT. CJP ‘s Goalpara district legal team member Advocate Ashim Mubarak oversaw the entire legal process and examined her all documents. He found that she has all the necessary documents, from Mamotaz’s forefathers and father’s names recorded in voters’ lists to school certificate to their land documents. The advocate got the documents ready and very skillfully handled the case which ensured an order of the Foreigner’s Tribunal that held in favour of Mamotaz Begum.
Since 2019, CJP has been holding regular state and regional legal aid workshops, addressing advocates at the district and village levels to better equip lawyers with the ability and strategy to ensure that at the level of the Foreigner’s Tribunal itself, hapless and economically marginalized persons, get relief from ill-mandated references or notices served unilaterally and without basis by the Assam Border Police. See details of CJP’s Assam Paralegal workshops here and here.
Over the years, during CJP’s humanitarian work in Assam we have discovered that unlettered housewives are at a disadvantage in proving their linkage to their birth families for a plethora of reasons – being born at home and not a hospital means there is no birth certificate, they are not sent to school so they don’t have a school leaving certificate, by the time they are old enough to vote, they have already been married off, so the first time their name appears in a voters list, they have already moved to their marital home.
Legal Battle in Mamotaz Begum’s case
Since we got the case on March 10, 2022, it took six months for CJP’s persistent efforts to get the relief for Mamotaz Begum. The procedeefirst appeared before the Foreigners Tribunal on March 15, 2022 and then and six more appearance with the last being on August 25, 2022. Over seven hearings, CJP’s legal team, led by advocate AshimMobarak in this case, obtained relief for the hapless victim.
The content in the Assam Border Police reference/notice falsely claimed that the father of Mamotaz Begum was “unknown”, she is a Bangladeshi who came through the Meghalaya border and settled in Dharai under the Lakhipur police station jurisdiction, Goalpara Assam without valid documents. Further, the notice stated that she came from Bangladesh into Assam after January 1, 1966 and or after March 25, 1971. The baseless averrments, without investigation in most of the Assam Border Police references/notices have made scores of working persons victims of a rapacious system in the state.
Strategy followed by CJP
In such cases, the establishment of a ‘link” between the victim procedee and her/their parents is crucial. In this case, the proceedee has studied upto Standard X, she therefore has a school certificate and our legal team established this by calling in as witness (during proceedings), the principal of the school.
In many cases however, proceedees are women and unlettered however; hence, they either have Gaon Panchayat Link certificate which has been issued in the year 2015 during the NRC process or they have (their) marriage certificates/Kabin Nama from a government ‘kazi’ or a private ‘kazi’. Establishment of a “link” with parents through this document is not considered legally “sufficient”.
Victory at last!
Finally, it was one more CJP Victory. On August 25, Mamotaz Begum was declared as Indian not foreigner! On September 19, 2022, CJP Assam State Team In-charge Nanda Ghosh, CJP legal team member Advocate Ashim Mubarak and DVM Zeshmin Begum and Reshminra Khatun, visited Mamotaz Begum and handed her the judgment copy.
The order in Mamotaz Begum’s case may be viewed here:
With this, CJP has helped yet another person defend their Indian citizenship before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Assam. On September 19, 2022, our team gave a copy of a favorable order to Mamotaz Begum, bringing the hapless disabled woman much relief.
CJP’s consistent legal aid work in Assam
The positive resolution of her case comes close at the heels of a similar victory in the case of Mohan Roy of Barpeta, the son of Bangladeshi refugees who were naturalized as Indian citizens. CJP had helped Roy prove his case before a FT in Assam. The case of Asiya Bibi, whose family had been forced to migrate due to floods and had faced as many as three different FT cases, is another example wherein the CJP Team helped her prove her citizenship.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, CJP had been active helping people in Assam’s dreaded Detention Centres get released on conditional bail. Moreover, we had been helping people defend their citizenship before FTs. Stories of how we had helped nonagenarian Koch Rajbongshi woman Moyna Barman, and 75-year-old Dalit widow Champa Das are well known.