‘Foreigner’ dies in detention in Assam, kin refuse to accept body

The family of a “mentally unstable” man, who died on Sunday morning after two years of detention in a camp for declared foreigners in Assam, on Monday refused to accept his body. One of his sons said that if his father was a Bangladeshi, they should have sent the body to Bangladesh.

Dulal Paul, who was lodged at the Tezpur detention centre on October 11, 2017, died at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital. Doctors said he was admitted on September 28 and was suffering from diabetes and renal complications.

The 65-year-old from Alisinga village near Dhekiajuli town in Sonitpur district was the 26 victim of the State’s system of quarantining “non-citizens” since 2011.

The Sonitpur district police’s attempt to hand over the body to Paul’s family triggered protests in the Dhekiajuli area on Monday. Members of the All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation and locals blocked the arterial National Highway 15 for three hours demanding that he be declared an Indian first.

“We have land documents dating back to 1960. But they still took our father and spared no thought to his mental condition. Since the government declared him a Bangladeshi, it should have sent his body to Bangladesh,” said Ashish Paul, one of Paul’s three wards.

“We made them understand that declaring a person Indian was not in our hands and that the courts have to decide. They relented and agreed to take the man’s body for cremation,” Sonitpur Superintendent of Police Kumar Sanjit Krishna said.

A spokesperson of the Bengali students’ federation said a police team headed by an additional SP promised to “undo the injustice” to Paul and provide compensation to the bereaved family.

Special Director General of Police (Border) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta quoted a report of the district police saying the detention camp authorities came to know Paul was a psychiatric patient and visited the Tezpur Mental Hospital once a month for check-ups.

Mr. Mahanta heads the Assam Police Border Organisation, a wing of the Assam police formed in 1962 for detecting and deporting illegal migrants or foreigners. This wing refers cases to the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs), which pronounce judgements on the nationality of those identified as suspected aliens.

Those declared foreigners are sent to Tezpur and five other detention centres within the central jails. Assam is building the first standalone detention centre in Goalpara district for accommodating up to 3,000 people.

Till August, the six detention camps had 1,145 inmates. Following a Supreme Court directive to conditionally release those who had completed three years of detention, the State government set 10 of them free.

In July, State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, on behalf of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, said that 25 persons declared as “illegal foreigners” by the FTs died across the six camps since 2011.

“They died after being admitted to hospitals due to illnesses,” Mr Patowary he said, adding that the body of none of them was sent to Bangladesh, the country the FTs said they had come from.

Most of those who died were Bengali speakers – Hindus and Muslims. 

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:35:30 PM |

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