28, Sep 2019 | Zamser Ali
On May 26, 2018, Subrata Dey, a Bengali Hindu, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Goalpara detention camp. Dey was the only earning member, and his family at the time depended on his income from his modest tea shop. Now, a year later, his son has been forced to drop out of school, and his mother and wife live hand to mouth with what they earn by making and selling cloth bags. On September 26, 2019, a CJP team visited the family. This is what they found.
It was bright evening, but everything was gloomy and darker than a new moon night in the Dey household in Ashadubi village in Goalpara. The darkness was in the eyes of the family of Subrata Dey, who died in detention camp a year and four months ago. Subrata’s mother Anima and widow Karuna were sewing cloth bags.
Karuna said, “All our dreams died with Subrata last year. Now we sew cloth bags and survival is a struggle.” Anima explains, “Everyday, I cannot sew more than two dozen bags, while Karuna can only manage four dozens bags. For each dozen, we are paid Rs 8/. Now, you tell us how are we to survive on Rs 48/ per day?”
Now that the final NRC has been published, and 19,06,657 people have been excluded from the final list, CJP’s campaign has become even more focused. Our objective now, is to help these excluded people defend their citizenship before Foreigners’ Tribunals. For this we have already started conducting a series of workshops to train paralegals to assist people at FTs. We will also be publishing a multi-media training manual containing simplified aspects of legal procedure, evidentiary rules, and judicial precedents that will ensure the appeals filed against the NRC exclusions in the FTs are comprehensive and sound, both in fact and in law. This will assist our paralegals, lawyers and the wider community in Assam to negotiate this tortuous process. For this we need your continued support. Please donate now to help us help Assam.
The team comprised CJP’s Assam state program coordinator Ali Zamser, volunteer motivators Pranay Tarafdar and Nandu Ghosh, and detention camp survivor and CJP community volunteer Rashminara Begum. Ratan Goswami, the Vice-President of Bharatiya Nagorik Adhikar Suraksha Mancha also accompanied the CJP team.
They spotted Subrata’s eight year old daughter Sucheta was reading from her book of rhymes. But his son Biki was nowhere to be seen. He had finished his standard twelve studies around the time of his father’s death, but now his life has taken a bleak turn. When Ratan Goswami enquired about his whereabouts, the room fell silent. After a while Anima spoke. “He works as an apprentice in a cloth shop in Dhupdhra. He does not get paid anything as of now. If he can learn, he will be paid something,” says Anima of her grandson. Astonished Pranay Tarafdar asked if Biki was continuing his education and Anima stoically replied, “No.”
The family once had some land, a small dairy farm and a tea shop. But they were forced to sell it all to pay for Subrata’s case before the foreigners’ tribunal.
Brief background of the Subrata Dey’s case
Subrata Dey, who born in 1979 at his family home in South Salmara Bazar area under undivided Goalpara district, later migrated with his family to Krishai which is about 70 km away. They had to migrate several times as the Old Market area of South Salmara several hundred villages were washed away by the Brahmaputra several times since 1968. Some of these villages still experience inundation.
Subrata Dey had been served a D Voter notice 9 years ago and referred to a foreigners’ tribunal in 2016. The family moved heaven and earth to collect all necessary documents to prove his Indian citizenship. “Though, his father Krishna Pada Dey’s name was enrolled in 1951 NRC along with his grandfather Monoranjan Dey and grandmother Makhan Bala Dey, Subrata Dey was declared foreigner,” says Nandu Ghosh, CJP Volunteer Motivator for Lower Assam.
While authorities had claimed that Subrata died of an illness, the family suspects foul play. “I met my son at detention camp on May 24, 2018. He never said or looked like he was unwell. I spoke to him and he said nothing about his illness. On May 26, we were informed that he had died in detention camp. I don’t believe that Subrata died due to illness, he must have been murdered,” says Anima.
Interestingly, Anima had been served a foreigner’s notice back in 1998. The family challenged the case in the IM(DT) court, and she was declared Indian. In 2012, Karuna Dey, wife of Subrata Dey faced the same situation and she was declared Indian by a Foreigners’ Tribunal. But, Subrata Dey was not so lucky. The family feels that a greedy lawyer botched up the case. Even after paying Rs 1,30,000/- , the family feels his advocate didn’t deal with the case properly leading to Subrata being declared foreigner.
Then Rashminara Begum, another detention camp survivor who now works as a community volunteer with CJP asked, “How many names of your family members have been included in final NRC?” Karuna replied, “Not even a single one!” Nandu Ghosh checked the ARN again and found that name of Anima Dey and Karuna Dey, had been dropped from final NRC on the ground that, foreigners’ tribunal cases are pending against both of them. The name of Biki Dey and Sucheta Dey have been dropped, because they are descendants of declared foreigners!
After learning the reason for exclusion Anima said in anguish, “I was born in this country, I have never seen Bangladesh. Still, I had to fight foreigners’ case long back. I was declared Indian in that case. How can they say that I have a pending case in foreigners’ tribunal? Karuna was also declared Indian in 2012. How can they say so?”
The members of the team CJP tried to reassure the family of our continued support and that we would inquire if a fresh reference has been made before a foreigners’ tribunal against them, and if a notice has been sent. If fresh references against them have not submitted, then team CJP will take every step to help Anima and Karuna have their names included in the final NRC on the basis of earlier judgement. But, the assurances led to greater anguish. Karuna broke down saying, “I have nothing now to fight the cases. If we are asked to attend foreigners’ tribunal once again, then I have no resources to fight the case.” The CJP team found that the mental health of the family members was also very fragile on account of the crushing poverty and growing hopelessness. Before leaving our team reassured the Dey family that CJP will provide them legal aid. Anima and Biki will be present at a special solidarity meet for Assam that is being organised by CJP and a few other human rights groups in Mumbai on October 11.