02, Jun 2023 | CJP Team
CJP has been in contact with Sumitra Bala Ray of Ankarbari village since 2022; it has been, like many others, a lengthy, sustained connection. Sumitra is from the Chirang district, and her village falls under the Dhaligaon police station.
In April 2022, she was served a ‘suspected foreigner’ notice from the Foreigner Tribunal in Chirang. She was all alone at home. Her husband was away in Kerala for work – she had absolutely no idea how to proceed. She was distraught at the thought of how she would collect her documents.
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!
It was at this stage that CJP found out about her case and reached out. CJP Assam’s team member Kalam helped her collect her documents along with her younger brother.
CJP’s humanitarian work in Assam is grounded in the vision of humanitarian legal aid, laced with dignity, not just a bureaucratic exercise to mechanically tick off some boxes. CJP has stood unwaveringly over the years with people as they face trial, disenfranchisement, and persecution. It is with this abiding commitment that CJP makes sustained efforts to maintain lasting contact with people – regardless of whether their citizenship trials and concerns are over or not. CJP considers the task of rehabilitation towards a life of dignity a priority and concern.
CJP has kept in touch and visited Sumitra Bala since 2022. In June 2022, for instance, CJP counselled Sumitra Bala as she was worried about her upcoming appearance at the Tribunal and assured her that CJP’s team would be there with her every step of the way. Thereafter, CJP continued to assist her in collecting her documents. The following month as well, CJP discussed her upcoming hearing with her lawyer over a call, who told the team that she would be unable to collect the requisite documents for Sumitra Bala. CJP’s team discussed what the lawyer said with Sumitra Bala and resolved that they would pick up the documents. By this time, Sumitra Bala’s husband also promised to pitch in collecting the remaining documents as he was back in Assam.
It has not been an easy ride, but CJP perseveres with the people of Assam. Sumitra Bala continued to face many hurdles, facing a back-breaking setback when her lawyer refused to work for her. CJP’s District Voluntary Motivator Abul Kalam Azad then tried several times to successfully get a NOC (no objection certificate) from the lawyer in Kajalgaon.
Sumitra Bala’s case is still pending today in the Chirang Foreigners Tribunal. Her citizenship remains suspect. Her case was supposed to have ended in September 2022. Still, it did not, revealing the insidious way in which Foreigner trials persist in Assam, making the prospect of possible statelessness loom over for months and sometimes years. CJP, however, continues to counsel Sumitra Bala, ensuring that they assist her every step of the way – discussing with her lawyer or ensuring her documents are in order – and even in keeping alive her hopes.