12, May 2020 | CJP Team
Ever since two Supreme Court orders, dated May 2019 and April 2020, made it possible for inmates of detention camps get conditional bail, CJP has been trying to help secure their release. 21 people had already come out due to the efforts of CJP, and on Monday, May 11 we were able to add three more names to that list taking the tally to 24 so far.
They are Sunil Chandra Biswas, Manoranjan Sarkar and Sadhana Sarkar. Let’s take a deeper look into their cases and the challenges faced in securing their release.
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.
Sunil Chandra Biswas
70-year-old Sunil Chandra Biswas, son of Dharani Biswas, who hails from Dimajhora village that falls under Bijni police station of Chirang district. He had been arrested by the border police and detained in the Goalpara a detention camp since November 4, 2015. Thus, he ended up spending 4 years 6 months and 7 days behind bars. The reason for his long incarceration is that he has no living relatives and therefore no one applied for his bail.
“I used to watch how other inmates had relatives who would come to meet them in the detention camp, but no one came for me. So, I started to believe that the inmates were my family,” said Biswas shortly after being released. “I had never though that someone would help me get released,” he said still visibly surprised.
Biswas’s family had sold off their entire land in 1961. After his father’s death he made a living by working in people’s homes and living with them. Nanda Ghose, CJP’s volunteer motivator from Lower Assam who worked on securing Biswas’s release says, “Unfortunately, at first he was thought to be a suspicious citizen and later a foreigners’ tribunal identified the uneducated, ignorant and impoverished Sunil Biswas as a foreigner.”
We faced a challenge in finding his correct address as Biswas’s address as per detention camp records is in Maimonsingh district of Bangladesh! “We went to the Border Police office where we discovered that one address was recorded in Dimajhora. When we went to the village old times in the age group of 65 and above recalled Biswas having born and raised in the village,” said Ghosh. “Many people in his village wished for the release of this simple man with a calm, polite and humble nature. Even when other detainees whose release we had help secure from the Goalpara detention camp, appealed to us to help Biswas,” added Ghosh.
But we faced another hurdle when in came to finding people to stand as sureties for his bail. “One of the people had not paid his land tax for nine years. So CJP cleared the amount in order to get the tax clearance certificate that allowed us to proceed with formalities,” says Ghosh.
However, CJP was aware that the challenge will not end with just securing Biswas’s release as the poor man had nowhere to go. That’s when CJP’s Assam state team coordinator Zamser Ali spoke to people and arranged for Biswas’s stay with the help of Jagadish Tapader, the other person who served as surety for Biswas’s bail. Tapader who hails from Puradia village that falls under Bijni police station in Chirang district has become Biswas’s guardian in his time of need. In fact, Biswas had once upon a time worked for the Tapader family and lived with them. In fact, Biswas was arrested from Puradiya while he was working there. CJP is now trying to arrange for a cow for Biswas so he can earn a dignified and comfortable living in his old age.
“I am grateful to CJP for making all these efforts to find guarantors and painstakingly ensuring proper documentation for each inmate. You have provided proper couselling and support with a lot of compassion and that is truly commendable,” said Tapadar.
“I got released because there is a god. You are god sent to me,” he said to CJP.
60-year-old Manoranjan Sarkar is a frail old man. Son of Kunjya Mohan Sarkar, Manoranjan hails from Monswari village that falls under the Bijni police station in Chirang district. He was arrested by the border police and has been lodged at the Goalpara detention camp since August 1, 2017. He thus, ended up spending 2 years, 2 months and 9 days behind bars.
Manoranjan Sarkar’s case was very complicated. “He had left to become a ‘sanyasi’ when he was just a child and therefore had no documentation. He also did not have any close relationships with anyone in the village. Sarkar used to live in the premises of a temple for several years before coming back to live a normal domestic life,” explains Zamser Ali. After coming back Sarkar got married.
“His family consists of his wife, a son and a daughter who is a student of 9th standard. Every two to three days, Manoranjan’s son Kamal who works as a mason would call us and cry as he felt helpless and depressed,” says Ghosh. CJP’s volunteer motivators Pranay Tarafdar and Papiya Das would often visit the family to offer them emotional support through this trying time. CJP also provided the family with some food-grains when we discovered how impoverished their condition was.
“At the foreigners’ tribunal he was told that if anyone from his temple testifies in his favour, he would still have a shot. But by then the chief ‘saint’ of the temple and the only person who could verify Sarkar had spent his formative years there had passed away,” says Ali explaining why Sarkar ended up in a detention camp.
Earlier his wife Sandha had also been forced to spend 89 in at the Kokrajhar detention camp before being declared Indian and granted her freedom. The family had exhausted its meagre resources and had lost all hope for Manoranjan’s release. Sandha told CJP, “Had it not been for you, my husband would have never walked free. I’m not going to cry anymore.”
But securing Manoranjan’s bail was also not an easy task. The person who stands as guarantor in such a case must hail from the same revenue village as the detainee and it took CJP 4 months to convince people to stand as sureties. Never-the-less, we persisted.
Kamal, who has smiled for the first time in over two years says, “I am relieved that he is back. We felt helpless, but then CJP came to us and took care of everything. I am happy to finally have my father back.”
Manoranjan’s daughter Purnima said, “I was unable to concentrate on my studies when my father was in the detention camp. But now, thanks to CJP, he is back home and I am confident of appearing for my matric exams next year.”
55-year-old Sadhana Sarkar, daughter of Suresh Chandra Sarkar, hails from Agrang village that falls under the Panbari police station in Chirang District. She was detained at the Kokrajhar detention camp since May 5, 2018 and went through a harrowing time. “I would constantly think of home. I missed my granddaughter and feared I would never see her again. I thought I’d die in there and never come out,” says Sadhana.
A strict vegetarian, Sadhana also faced challenges when it came to the food served in the detention camp, “I don’t eat fish or meat or even onions and garlic. I alone know how I survived in the detention camp.” Sadhana also suffers from a back problem and finds it difficult to walk.
But CJP moved with lightening speed and ensured she walked out of the detention camp withing just six days of completing two years in captivity. “The entire CJP team including our community volunteers Mohanbashi Rai, Bipul Sarkar and Raj Barman ran pillar to post to arrange for guarantors and keep all documentation ready in advance. Sujan Mandal, a prominent social worker also helped us,” says Ali.
We are now working on a comprehensive rehabilitation package for all the released inmates.
The CJP team also arranged permissions and paid for hiring four vehicles for the entire exercise. CJP’s Assam team comprising volunteer motivators Nanda Ghosh, Pranay Tarafdar, Faruk Ahmed, Abul Kalam Azad and Papiya Das worked on these cases under the guidance of CJP’s Assam state coordinator Zamser Ali. Advocate Dewan Abdur Rahim, assisted by Advocate Jahera Khatun and Advocate Prity Karmakar, was also a key member of the team that also comprises hundreds of community volunteers, paralegals, assistants and drivers.
We would like to specially thank Pijush Chakraborty, Bipul Sarker, Mohanbashi Ray, Rajib Barman, Aminul Islam, Sabin Mallick, Narayan Sarkar, Braja Gopal Sarkar, Ratan Goswami, Monoj Saha, Jagadish Tapadar, Bhupesh Ch. Das, Sanjay Mahanayak, Samiran Sarkar, Mrinal Kanti Saha, Kartik Debnath, Bimal Das, Sujan Mandal, Abhiram Mahanayak, Anirban Sen, Swapan Saha, Badal Mandal, Raju Saha Mandal and Sajal Das.