Man who was declared ‘foreigner’ passes away at 104 in Assam

Chandradhar Das (right) with his nonagenarian wife.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A bedridden man who was sent to a detention centre for foreigners at the age of 102 has died at his residence in southern Assam’s Barak Valley. He was 104.

Data | Where are detention centres in India?

News portals based out of Cachar district reported on December 14 that Chandradhar Das died close to midnight on December 13 before he could prove his citizenship.

His daughter Niyati Das said the centenarian was not keeping well and unable to eat properly for months. “He could barely speak but had one last wish – to die as a recognised Indian,” she said from their residence at Amraghat near district headquarters Silchar.

“Sad to know [of his death],” said Lakshmanan S., the Mission Director of National Health Mission, Assam, who was the Deputy Commissioner of Cachar district when a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) declared Das a foreigner in an ex-parte judgement.

Mr. Lakshmanan had ensured bail for Das on humanitarian grounds after his condition came to light. The centenarian was lodged at the Silchar Central Jail – one of six that doubles up as a detention centre for “illegal foreigners” – in January 2018 after an FT in Silchar declared him a non-citizen.

Das’s counsel, Suman Chowdhury, said he was frail and unable to walk without assistance when lodged at the centre.

Das’s claim of citizenship was based on a refugee registration certificate issued in 1956 in Tripura capital Agartala, which said he was born in Comilla district of erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

His case had been pending as the authorities in Tripura have not verified the document.

A person from beyond India’s borders, specifically from present-day Bangladesh, is considered a foreigner if he or she entered Assam after March 24, 1971. This is the cut-off date for detecting, detaining and deporting illegal migrants according to the Assam Accord of August 1985.

The “foreigner” tag on Das led to his three children and grandchildren being excluded from the National Register of Citizens for Assam, first published in 1951 and updated in August 2019.

Some 19.06 out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded from the updated list that seeks to sift illegal foreigners from genuine Indian citizens.

The Das family claimed they came to India in 1955, well before the citizenship cut-off date was determined. They have nevertheless pinned their hopes on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that proposes to fast-track citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who took refuge in India up to December 31, 2014.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 4:20:08 AM |

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