24, Apr 2021 | Kuntal Chakraborty
Who says detention camps have become a symbol of hell for only religious and linguistic minorities? Sixty-year-old Shanti is being held captive in Kokrajhar detention camp after being identified as a foreigner in an ex parte judgement by the Foreigners Tribunal. No, this old lady is neither a Hindu Bengali nor a Muslim Bengali. Shanti is a Hindu Dalit. Her full name is Shanti Basfore. She has not even a distant relationship with Bangladesh. However, the tribunal No. 10 of Dhubri has given the opinion that she came to this country from the neighbouring country after March 24, 1971. After that Shanti had to go to the detention camp with a badge of foreigner.
A resident of Ramraikuti pt (ii) village under Agomoni police station of Dhubri district Shanti’s father name is Punjabi Basfore. The house of Shanti is about half of kilometer away from the Indo-Bangladesh border. Punjabi was a permanent resident of Ward No. 8 under Dhubri Police Reserve. He has own legacy data of 1956. She was married to Badanlal Basfore after her father’s death. She was teenager then. Shanti-Badanlal have their name in the voter list. Poverty is their constant companion. Yet in all this, the husband and wife built a nest of happiness.
But what Shanti could not imagine in her life happened in 2017. On November 28 of that year, a foreigner’s notice was issued by the tribunal in Shanti’s name. The notice ordered her to appear in the tribunal on December 14 of the same year. But Shanti did not understand the meaning of this notice. On top of this was the terrible blow of poverty. A lawyer has to be hired to go to the tribunal and fight a legal fight . But she can’t afford it! Illiteracy is the source of ignorance. Moreover, poverty is also a dangerous curse. Due to both reasons Shanti did not set foot in the door of the tribunal. As a result, what was supposed to happen has happened. On January 24, 2018, the tribunal no 10 of Dhubri District declared Shanti a foreigner in a unilateral verdict. The tribunal has accepted the case filed by the police alleging that Shanti had entered Bangladesh illegally after 1971. Shanti was also suspected to be a suspicious citizen in the report of the Electoral Registration Officer of Golakganj Assembly constituency. The tribunal said Shanti did not appear in court even after receiving the notice. In other words, despite being given ample opportunity, she did not appear before the tribunal to prove her citizenship. Therefore, the tribunal declared her a 1971 foreigner in a unilateral verdict.
Meanwhile, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has extended a helping hand to Dalit woman Shanti after learning of her plight. State Incharge of this Organization Nanda Ghosh, volunteer of Dhubri district Habibul Bepari and Ujjwal Dey met the family members of Shanti on 7th April. Nanda said, “We have seen that Shanti has enough documents to prove her citizenship. On the other hand, Shanti is in the final stages of the two-year detention term required for bail in accordance with the Supreme Court’s order on detainees in detention camps in the wake of the Covid epidemic. Now the CJP is arranging to bring her out from the detention camp on bail.” Nanda, Habibul, Ujjwal have also spoken to Shanti’s 33-year-old daughter Champa. Nanda said, “Even though Champa is thirty-three years old, she looks like a woman in her fifties. Champa seems to have aged prematurely as a response to the tragedy that befell her mother’s life.” Champa told CJP delegates that she could see a golden line of hope because of Nanda, Habibul and Ujjwal, they would be able to rescue her mother from the detention camp. Nanda says finding bailors for Shanti is a challenge for them. Many do not want to be bailor for fear of getting into legal trouble. But these young fighters of CJP giving Their best. Team has assured Champa that there will be no shortcomings on the part of the CJP to release Shanti from the detention camp.
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