‘Foreigners’ in Assam detention camp on hunger strike

Updated - March 21, 2018 09:43 pm IST

Published - March 21, 2018 08:06 pm IST - GUWAHATI:

About 150 inmates of a detention camp in Assam, declared foreigners by various tribunals, have triggered a crisis by fasting since Monday for an indefinite period.

The reason behind the hunger strike, officials said, is a slew of demands that include bail leave to fight their cases in Supreme Court and creation of separate detention camps across districts.

The Goalpara detention camp, about 140 km west of Guwahati, is one of six in Assam within district jails. Goalpara is the headquarters of Goalpara district bordering Bangladesh.

“I visited the detention camp today to explain the position of the government and urge the inmates to stop their fast. They said they will decide on their next course after discussing among themselves,” Ghanashyam Dass, Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara district, told The Hindu.

Amitabh Sinha, the district’s Superintendent of Police, said the inmates have been told their detention has been through a judicial process, not merely on the basis of suspicion.

“Many a Foreigners’ Tribunal has declared them foreigners. Some appealed to the Gauhati High Court, which upheld the decision of the tribunals. A few appealed to the Supreme Court where cases are pending,” Mr. Sinha said.

Assam has exactly 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals that handle cases referred by the Assam Border Police Organisation, whose primary job is to detect and detain foreign nationals in the State.

In February, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government had said in the Assembly that there were 899 declared foreigners across the six detention camps as on February 4. Of these, 251 were in Goalpara.

But last week, the total figure was revised to 52 in a reply to a question in the Assembly without any explanation.

Aman Wadud, a lawyer who takes up cases of D-voters (doubtful voters, another set of people in detention camps) and ‘foreigners’ voluntarily, said the process of detecting, detaining and deporting foreigners was faulty.

“There are cases where Indians, whose forefathers were never in places now in Bangladesh, have been declared foreigners just because they cannot put two and two together. Almost all of them are poor, illiterate villagers or labourers who have lost everything to establish their citizenship that should not have been questioned in the first place,” he said.

The paranoia about being outnumbered by Bangladeshis drives popular perception that Assam has a large number of "unwanted foreigners".

The detention camp detainees are also treated differently from other inmates in jail for various crimes. For instance, they are not allowed to work for a wage unlike the others who can earn ₹55 or ₹75 a day depending on skills.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.