26, Jul 2019 | Deborah Grey
Last year, we brought you the story of Anjaan Musafir, a daily wage labourer from Guwahati who has been on the run for over 20 years after being served a D Voter notice. During our visit to Assam in June 2019, we met yet another man who fled his home fearing incarceration in one of Assam’s infamous detention camps. This Anjaan Musafir 2.0 though has been on the run for a little over three months. Here is his story.
36 year old Anjaan Musafir 2.0 is also a daily wage labourer, who originally hails from Shiv Sagar district in Upper Assam. He moved to Morigaon in 2003 with his family and this is where he used to live with his wife and two sons, before he was forced to go off the grid.
In 2012, a ‘suspected foreigner’ notice was issued in his name, but he did not get it because it was given to someone else in the village. Then in 2016, he was again served a ‘suspected foreigner’ notice and asked to appear before a foreigners’ tribunal.
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Musafir appeared before the FT with all his documents. “I have land ownership documents of my grandfather. I also have a Voter ID, a PAN card and also a School Leaving Certificate,” says Musafir. Musafir’s documents can be viewed here:
“But the case would keep getting adjourned and dragged on for three years. Finally, in 2019, I was declared ‘foreigner’. I wasn’t told why. My lawyer said that he was finding it difficult to get the FT order. In fact, I had to pay a bribe of Rs 1500/- just so that my lawyer could get the order copy,” says Musafir. “I still don’t know why I was declared a foreigner, because my lawyer has the order copy. He says he is figuring something out, but he is asking for more money,” says Musafir, wondering if he has been scammed by his own lawyer.
“Everybody wants money. Where will I get money? I barely make more than Rs 37 per day! I had to borrow a lot of money from my father-in-law just to ensure I could appear for my FT hearings. I still don’t know how I will pay him back,” he says.
Musafir doesn’t trust the system due to his previous bad experience with policemen. When he had just passed class 10, he was picked up by a few cops who allegedly accused him of being a Bangladeshi. Though he submitted his school leaving certificate, the cops only let him go after forcing him to pay them a bribe of Rs 3000/-.
He knew what was coming. Musafir says, “When I realised I would be sent to a detention camp, I decided to run away!”
Meanwhile, things only got worse. Afraid that the villagers would now target the family, his wife and children also fled the village and now live with her father in another village. “We don’t get to meet each other. In fact, today we are meeting after a month,” says Musafir’s wife when we met the couple in Morigaon. “Can you help us,” she asks, clutching her husband’s documents wrapped neatly in an old polythene bag to protect them from the rain.
“I live on the streets and sleep under the stars, away from my family, so I can keep them out of trouble…” says Musafir looking tired and dejected. But he is also alert, keenly aware of his surroundings. He motions to his wife that they need to leave after a curious crowd begins to gather. The couple quickly leaves, but the question remains… can we help them?