08, Oct 2018 | Zamser Ali
Jobbar Ali, a 61 year old man who had been languishing behind bars at the Detention Camp in Tezpur, was found dead on October 5. Now, his family, many of whom are themselves fighting allegations of being doubtful or D-Voters, suspect foul play in his death.
Ali lived with his wife Simon Nessa, two sons, daughters-in-law and their six children in a small hut in Dhanshrighat village, which falls under the Udalguri district of Assam. Ali was declared a foreigner by the Foreigners Tribunal at Mangoldoi, Darrang District in 2007. His family alleges that he was declared foreigner despite possessing valid documents proving he is an Indian citizen.
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Ali was taken into custody by the Assam Police in 2015 and lodged first at the Goalpara detention camp and then the Tezpur detention camp. After spending three years and four months amidst the squalor and deprivation prevalent in the detention camp, Jobbar Ali mysteriously breathed his last there.
Losing it all in the hope to get Justice
His family tells us that despite allegedly possessing all necessary documents to prove his citizenship, Jobbar Ali lost everything he had, even his life, to simply prove he is an Indian. He was victimised by the mercilessly long judicial procedure. To manage the expenses and mounting bills of the judicial procedure, as a last resort, Jobbar Ali’s family had to mortgage their small piece of land for Rs. 50,000. His family, which includes his wife, two sons, daughters-in-law and six children inhabited that land and lived under a small makeshift hut.
Jobbar Ali’s 53 year old widow, Simon Nessa alleges that he didn’t die of natural causes in Tezpur detention camp. They have been left with an insurmountable debt of Rs. 1. 25 lakh and she has become the sole person liable for it as her sons are separated. Simon Nessa is has also been registered as a D Voter. She fears that she will be ousted from her hut where she lives with her family and thinks it will be impossible to repay the loan she had taken to have the land bonded.
“The piece of land where my hut is situated has been bonded for Rs. 50,000. I don’t earn from anything else and I have a single paddy plant. I borrowed some money from the village money lenders on the assurance that I will pay them with 8 quintals of paddy. I have spent everything I had to pay the lawyer and legal expenses,” she said.
With tears brimming, she said in a choked voice, “We are Indian citizens, we were born here, my husband’s parents were born here. How could they declare us foreigners? Why have they listed me as a D voter?”
The family was confident that their troubles will end and Jobbar Ali will get justice and be declared an Indian. “I took loans and paid the lawyers whenever it was needed. I believed that my husband will be declared an Indian and after his return from the detention camp, he will earn to repay the loans. We were secretly given this message that he has died on Oct 5,” she said. She was told he succumbed to an illness, but she is unwilling to settle for that explanation.
Alive and well a week before dying
A week ago, Simon Nessa met her husband on September 27. “I went to Tezpur jail to see him. He was fine when I met him. He came on his own to the main gate of the jail. We talked for a few minutes. I asked him about his health. He said he was fine but the conditions of the detention camp were bad. On Thursday, Oct 4, I called the police on duty at the camp to ask about my husband. He said that he was okay and said that he had spoken to him and he was comfortable. How is it possible that he was just no more the next day,” she said.
Jobbar Ali’s father Sutko Ali had his name in the data from 1966 and 1971. They had legacy data filed in the updated NRC forms. Ali had his name in a voters list from 1985 but labelled a D voter since 1997 according to his family members. Incidentally, in the voters list from 1997, Ali does not have a D voters label. His case was referred to the Foreigners tribunal and Ali had claimed that he had paid huge amounts of money to a lawyer to take him to the tribunal but it never happened. When Ali was declared a foreigner in 2007, he was not informed. In 2015, the police arrested him and sent him to the detention camp where he died.
Local social worker Musabirul Haque who is helping the family cope with the crisis spoke to us on their behalf and demanded a thorough investigation into the matter.
After being detained, his family filed a writ petition which the Guwahati HC rejected saying that it was not filed according to the stipulated time frame. The family then filed a review petition which was listed for hearing on Oct 12. The current advocate for the family is Moyej Uddin Mahmud at Guwahati High Court. Advocate Mahmud said, “Jobbar Ali had all valid documents to be an Indian. The judgement of the Foreigners tribunal on the matter of Jobbar Ali can’t be justified by anyway.”
Ali’s elder son Jahar Ali was also labelled as a D Voter but has been declared Indian by the Foreigners’ Tribunal and ironically enough, because of his father’s and grandfather’s documents. Nekbor Ali, Jobbar Ali’s younger brother, was also declared a foreigner in 2007. Out of 33 voters in the village where Ali resided, six have been listed as D voters even though all of them have sufficient documents to prove their Indian citizenship.
This story was first published on Sabrang India and may be read here.