26, Aug 2019 | CJP Team
CJP has just concluded a three day paralegal training workshop in Guwahati in the run up to the publication of the final NRC on August 31, 2019. The objective of the workshop was to equip local, district level lawyers and paralegal volunteers with in-depth skills and training to navigate the complex issue of citizenship after the publication of the list.
“People whose names will be excluded would be required to defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals and CJP does not want any genuine Indian citizen to suffer on account of lack of proper legal advice,” said CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad explaining the purpose of the workshop. “CJP already has about 500 volunteers working across 19 districts. Nearly 100 of them were trained in the workshop held at Guwahati. More workshops have been planned in other regions of the state in the months to come,” added Setalvad.
Apart from workshops, printed and electronic training manuals will be prepared to ensure that basic and competent approaches by village and district level legal practitioners and paralegals in the appeal filing process will not want for depth and competence. Foreigners Tribunals, so far dealing with referral cases from either the Assam Border Police or the Election Commission, have been questioned on both their approach, knowledge and competence.
The three day workshop, conducted from August 22-24, 2019 in Guwahati, was top-lined by several legal luminaries including Ashish Dasgupta (legal scholar and senior advocate), HRA Choudhury (author, legal scholar and senior advocate, Gauhati High Court), Bijan Chandra Das (former Advocate General, Tripura), Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya (former Advocate General, Tripura), Mihir Desai (senior advocate, Mumbai High Court), Abdur Rahman Sikdar (senior advocate Gauhati High Court) and Mrinmoy Dutta (advocate, Gauhati High Court). Eminent academicians such as Prof. Abdul Mannan (Gauhati University) and Amal Kanti Raha (former HOD of Bengali in Pandu College) also graced the workshop. Renowned economist Ananta Kalita (former Chairman, Board of Directors, State Bank of India), civil society member Hareshwar Barman (former member AASU, founding member Sanmilita Janogosthiya Sangram Samitee) and social activist Abdul Batin Khandakar also shared valuable insights. Many other legal eagles such as advocates Inam Uddin, Mul Hoque, Azizur Rehman and Mustafa Khaddam Hussain also conducted sessions for the paralegals.
Nearly one hundred legal practitioners, including paralegals from mixed and varied backgrounds participated in the multi-dimensional interactions and training. The participants came from across the state of Assam, many even from far-flung areas like Barpeta, Baksha, Chirang, Dhemaji, Sonitpur and Bongaigaon! From discussing threadbare, Supreme Court and High Court decisions on the crucial issues of citizenship, to navigating the complicated procedural hurdles likely to follow the publication of the NRC final list on August 31, the detailed sessions were animated with discussions and questions.
Speaking at the workshop Hareshwar Barman advised caution saying, “These are complicated times and we all need to be rational and restrained.” Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya though minced no words and said, “The citizenship issue is a political issue arising out of political attitude.” Speaking on the subject of detention camps he said, “Detention Camps are concentration camps. It is a human rights issue.”
Senior counsel, Mihir Desai concluded with words that were both practical and inspirational. He told the gathering as the sessions wound down, “It is not enough for you to be a well-meaning person with feelings and sentiments on the issue; you first and foremost have to be a competent lawyer/legal practitioner. We can certainly come in with help, thoughts on strategy and advice, but the victory or loss, on the ground, will be yours. This will be crucially dependent on what quality of challenge we collectively put up in the appeals before the Tribunals.”
CJP’s Assam state program coordinator Zamser Ali sums it up best saying, “From Bengali speaking people, to religious minorities, to Gorkhas and even tribals… everyone is suffering. People are dying. Some have committed suicide, some have died in detention camps. The plight of married and uneducated women is perhaps the worst! After the list comes out, those left out might suffer more. This is why CJP is reaching out to all these people irrespective of their religious or linguistic background. Our campaign is driven by compassion and legal expertise. We want justice for all Indians in Assam.”