03, Jun 2022 | CJP Team
42-year-old Rupbhanu Bibi did not expect anyone of accusing her of being a foreigner in the land of her birth. But after being served a notice requiring her to prove her citizenship before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Assam, she did not see any other alternative than to seek help from the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) team in the state.
A perplexed Rupbhanu could not understand why such a fate befell her. She asked, “I have all the documents. I was born in this county. Even my father was born in this country… How I am Bangaldeshi?”
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 52 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!
A daily wage workers and wife of one Nur Jamal Sheikh, she was living a peaceful life with her husband in Barvita village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Krishnai police station in Goalpara district. On January 27, 2022, the Border Police served her a notice to appear before the local FT. (FT(2) 1512/K/2016, FT case no-159/2007, Police reference no -GLP/B/FT/2007/563). Apprehensive at first, eventually they contacted CJP.
CJP to the rescue
On February 2, CJP District Volunteer Motivators Zesmin Sultana and Rashminara Begum, who was once herself thrown behind bars, after being accused of being a foreigner despite hailing from a family of freedom fighters, met the family. We found that the border police suspected her of being a foreigner and had therefore served her a notice to appear before an FT.
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.
We immediately swung into action and started helping her prepare her documentation that needed to be submitted before the FT. She made her first appearance on February 11 and submitted her written statement and supporting documents on March 4 and CJP’s advocate Ashim Mubarak made arguments in her favour before the FT on March 5.
With our help, Rup Bhanu Bibi submitted in her written statement that she was born and raised in Beldubi village that falls under the jurisdiction of South Salmara police station in what was previously Goalpara district, but now comes under Dhubri. She showcased with documents that her father Raham Ali’s name appeared in the voters’ lists in 1966, 1970, 1979, 1989 and 1997. Her own name appeared in the voters list of 2005 for the first time along with that of her husband in her marital village i.eBarvita, and then appeared in subsequent lists in 2010 and 2021. She also submitted copies of her PAN Card as well as Gaon Panchayat Secretary’s certificate. Her mother and uncle testified in her favour. Gaon Panchayat Secretary also testified to the authenticity of the certificate of linkage.
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. The GaonBurah orPanchayat Secretary’s certificate is the only linkage document they have, but that had unfortunately been dubbed a weak document.
CJP Legal team member Advocate Ashim Mubarak, who spearheaded her defence, said, “It was completed a bit faster than other cases. The issue of establishing linkage is very complicated in these cases, but we have been able to do it very firmly.”
The FT judgment may be read here:
FT declares her Indian citizen by birth
Thus, with CJP’s help the FT found Rupbhanu Bibi to be an Indian citizen by birth and thus declared her Indian on June 1, 2022. DVMs Zesmine Sultana and Rashminara Begum, accompanied by advocate Ashim Mubarak handed over her judgment copy to the family’s immense relief.
“When people are in trouble, Allah sends some people for help…I am happy and grateful today for the help received from CJP. It is because of your help, I was declared Indian,” said Rupbhanu after receiving the judgment copy.
Her husband also thanked the CJP team saying, “We are both daily wage workers. This who episode has taken a toll on our physical and mental health. Over the last two years, both of us have undergone important surgeries, and therefore had very little money left. Thus we had been worried ever since the notice arrived.”
Rupbhanu thanked us again saying, “Thank you all… Allah bless you.”
“After safely dropping all team members home, I also started my journey back with our driver Ashikul,” said CJP Assam state team in-charge Nanda Ghosh, adding, “As the sun set over the Brahmaputra and it began to rain, we departed after seeing the relived smiles as that is the greatest reward for team CJP.”
Some images of Rupbhanu and her family meeting the CJP team may be seen here: