31, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
A few years ago, when he was just a teenager, Amit, son of Arabinda Basu, fell into some bad company and took to alcohol. This enraged his father and one day when Arabainda caught Amit red-handed, the father beat up the son. This caused Amit to run away from home. It was only recently discovered that Amit has been at the Silchar Detention Camp for the last four years after being declared foreigner.
According to the Gati Dainik newspaper, Amit, a penniless, uneducated runaway teen was picked up by the police. Amit was suspected of being a Bangladeshi and was even taken to Karimganj near the Bangladesh border with the purported objective of repatriating him with his country. However, instead of being pushed into Bangladeshi territory, he was accused of trying to sneak into India from across the border. As he had no documents to prove his identity or citizenship, he was declared foreigner by a Foreigners’ Tribunal and lodged in a detention camp!
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. We are also helping secure the release of detention camp inmates as per the Supreme Court order on their conditional release. 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.
For years while the son remained incommunicado, Amit’s father looked for him. But the family is economically weak. The family comprising father, mother and Amit’s sister who recently passed her class 12 exams, live in a shanty-town in the hilly Lal Ganesh area of Guwahati on Arabinda’s meagre income of Rs 3,000 a month that he makes working at a hardware store. His lack of financial resources also made him decide against filing a missing person complaint with the local police. Ever since the lockdown he has been paid sporadically and on many occasions the family has been forced to go hungry.
When Arabinda finally discovered that his son was at the Silchar detention camp, he sought help from the State Legal Cell, but nothing worked. CJP Assam state team adviser Zamser Ali says, “It’s possible that alcoholism has taken a toll on Amit’s mental health. He was babbling nonsense when he was picked up by the police. Perhaps he told the police that he had come to Silchar from Bangladesh, so that he would not be sent back home. He even gave the wrong identity of his parents.”
Since the family did not know all this, and even if they did, could not afford to come to Silchar from Guwahati to challenge the FT decision, Amit ended up spending four years behind bars. Now it is noteworthy that, as per a May 2019 Supreme Court order, detention camp inmates who have completed three years in captivity, are eligible for release on conditional bail. In April this year, the SC modified its own decision in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and reduced the time served requirement to two years. The SC also reduced the surety amount from the previous Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5,000 only. In fact, these SC decisions have led CJP in securing the release of 33 inmates so far.
But, there are some hurdles in securing Amit Basu’s release. “The biggest problem in Amit’s case is not getting the bailors,” says Zamser Ali. He further explained that Amit’s home is in Guwahati, therefore as per rules, his bailors must be from Kamrup (Metro). Since Arbainda lives in a place like Lalganesh which is basically a large number of huts and shanties that have come up on a hill, there is no patta land around him. Land patta is an important document required to be submitted by the bailor to provide proof of surety money. This is what is preventing many people who want to help from becoming bailors. So far one person has submitted all documents, and the CJP team is yet to find the second bailor.
This has pushed Arabinda to the bring of frustration and despair. When the CJP Team met him, he was in tears. Last week he was so depressed he told us, “My life has been destroyed. I urge the government to release my son by August 15 or I’ll do something.” Worried that the emotionally unstable man might make a rash decision, the CJP team counselled him. We are putting together all documents required to apply for Amit’s bail.