17, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
In yet another example of institutional apathy for human suffering, five people from the flood-hit Dhalpur village in Darrang district of Assam have been sent notices to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Mangaldoi to defend their Indian citizenship.
“The region is presently submerged under 7-8 feet of water forcing people to vacate their homes in search of dry, safe places. Village after village have been virtually washed away. Standing crop has been destroyed,” says Joinal Abedin, CJP’s Volunteer Motivator from Darrang district.
Most residents of these villages are Bengali speaking Muslims who are engaged in the cultivation of rice and vegetables. Many also raise cattle and other livestock. They hail from economically weak backgrounds and barely make ends meet even in the best of times. With the floods their lives have been completely thrown out of gear.
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.
Our team had to take a boat to visit the village and we saw vacant houses, abandoned livestock and even grown trees partially submerged under water.
But what is even more shocking is how breaking from protocol, the notices were not actually served to the people in question, but sent via Whatsapp to the Gram Panchayat President!
“This is highly irregular. This the first time that a notice has been sent via Whatsapp,” says Abedin. “The quality of the image on Whatsapp was so blurred, I had to go to the police station to get copies of the actual notices,” he adds.
The notices have been issued as all five; four women and one man, are suspected of being ‘foreigners’. While the women have been asked to appear before the FT on July 21, the man has been asked to appear on July 20. No reason has been given as to why their citizenship is suspect in the first place.
There is no denying that citizenship is a contentious issue in Assam where over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31, 2019. However, given how the state has been reeling under extreme weather conditions such as cyclones, heavy rains and floods for over a month, and matters have been compounded due to the lockdown necessitated in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps the authorities could have shown a little compassion for people.
The notices issued may be viewed below: