Freedom for Assam woman wrongly sent to jail as foreigner 3 years ago

Updated - December 03, 2021 08:30 am IST

Published - June 26, 2019 10:20 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Madhubala Mandal.

Madhubala Mandal.

Almost three years after she was wrongly arrested, a 59-year-old woman was on Wednesday released from a detention camp for foreigners in western Assam’s Kokrajhar.

Her freedom came less than 24 hours after officials started the process of correcting a clerical error that made a retired teacher in southern Assam a ‘D’, or doubtful voter 22 years ago, thus depriving her of inclusion in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being updated.

The Hindu had reported both cases.

Madhubala Mandal was released after the police admitted before a Foreigners’ Tribunal that they had erred in picking her up instead of Madhumala Das in 2016. Both belong to the same village – No 1. Bishnupur in western Assam’s Chirang district.


“An inquiry revealed she was the victim of mistaken identity. She was set free after a police officer was sent to the Kokrajhar detention camp with a copy of the court’s order for her release,” Sudhakar Singh, Chirang’s Superintendent of Police, said.

Officials in the Assam police’s border wing – it is tasked with detecting suspected foreigners – declined to say if any action would be taken against the investigating officer who had goofed up and made the wrong woman pay for his mistake. There was also no clarity on whether Ms. Mandal would be compensated for her wrongful detention.

Relatives and NGOs who had fought Ms. Mandal’s case refused to buy the ‘mistaken identity’ apology. “Madhumala Das, the woman the police had come for had died long ago. But they still picked up another woman with a different surname because they thought nobody would care about a poor, illiterate woman who did not have the means to fight her case,” a spokesperson of the All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Association said.

About 540 km away in Cachar district, the election office for Lakhipur Assembly constituency began the process for rectifying the Election Commission’s error that made a 64-year-old retired headmaster a D-voter in 1997.

In a letter to the Cachar Superintendent of Police on Tuesday, Lakhipur’s Election Registration Officer J.R. Lalsim forwarded the retired teacher’s case for necessary action in view of a Gauhati High Court order. The formality took more than 90 days, although the officer was supposed to do so within 60 days of the court’s order on March 19.

“It is better late than never for the man who lost so many years because of clerical errors that have put the citizenship of 70 other people in Cachar district in doubt. The police now have to refer the retired teacher’s case to a Foreigners’ Tribunal, which is expected to pass an order for making him a legitimate voter again,” said Dharmananda Deb of Silchar Bar Association.

Silchar is the headquarters of Cachar district.

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