The death of a 77-year-old man from central Assam’s Nagaon district at the Tezpur detention centre for declared foreigners has triggered anger in his village and adjoining areas.
The detention centre in Tezpur, about 180 km northeast of Guwahati, is one of six in Assam.
Suruj Ali and his wife Golap Jaan, 64, were sent to the Tezpur detention centre after a Foreigners’ Tribunal declared them as non-citizens on April 9, 2017. Cases by Assam’s Border Police were registered against them in 1989.
Ali died on June 6 but the body was handed over to the members of his family two days later, after an autopsy. His body reached his village Batabari in Nagaon district’s Dhing region around the same time as ex-serviceman Mohammed Sanaullah went home after being released from the Goalpara detention centre on bail.
The people of Batabari initially refused to bury Ali’s body but relented in order not to create a law and order situation. Villagers said he was made to suffer because of government machinery that picked on religious and linguistic minorities.
Members of Ali’s family comprising five wards said neither he nor his wife was ever called for any hearing before they were declared foreigners.
Referring to the septuagenarian’s death and the Sanaullah episode, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA Aminul Islam said the authorities concerned have been making fake reports and harassing ordinary citizens by marking them as foreigners. Mr. Islam represents the Dhing Assembly constituency.
“I have no doubt that 99% of the people lodged in the detention camps as declared foreigners are Indian citizens. The case of Sanaullah caught everyone’s attention because of his Army background and service in the Border Police. Hundreds of others who are too poor or illiterate to pursue their cases are languishing in these centres unnoticed,” the MLA said.