The death of a 70-year-old Bengali man in a detention camp for foreigners has queered the pitch for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of the three-phase Lok Sabha election in Assam.
Amrit Das, a resident of Barpeta Road town in Barpeta district, died in the Goalpara detention camp on Saturday night. He had been languishing in the camp within a jail since 2017, after a Foreigners’ Tribunal declared him a foreigner on May 20 that year, despite figuring in voters’ lists from 1961 onward.
The jail authorities said Mr. Das was taken to a hospital after he complained of unease. But members of his family said he died without treatment after developing asthma due to sleeping on the cold floor of the jail.
“My father first voted in 1961, and we got our legacy data for National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the basis of the government records of his father Birendra Chandra Das. But the police sent my father a notice after which the Foreigners’ Tribunal declared him a foreigner. As a result, our names were struck off the NRC,” son Krishna Das said.
He lamented that his father died before their case could be heard in the Gauhati High Court.
Several Bengali organisations have blamed Mr. Das’ death on the BJP-led government in the State and demanded compensation for his above-poverty-line family.
Bengali Hindus are believed to be a major vote base for the BJP.
“Governments in Assam have been victimising Bengali Hindus by marking them D (doubtful) voters and foreigners and torturing them in jail.
“The State government must take the responsibility for the poor man’s death,” Shantanu Mukherjee, the Bharatiya Gana Parishad (BGP) candidate for the Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency, said.
Catering primarily to Bengali Hindus who have a voting strength of more than 20%, the BGP has fielded candidates in seven of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats. Many leaders of organisations such as the All Assam Bengali Youth Federation, pro-BJP earlier, have joined either the Congress or the Trinamool Congress.
According to the State’s Home department, there are 950 people marked as foreigners lodged in six detention camps across Assam, including the one in Goalpara. All of them are migrant Muslims and Bengali Hindus.
The Supreme Court has been hearing a case on the condition of Assam’s detention camps on the basis of a petition filed by former bureaucrat and rights activist Harsh Mander.