Other States

Last eligible ‘foreigner’ freed from detention

Siddeque Ali and his wife after the former’s release from the Silchar detention centre for ‘declared foreigners’.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Siddeque Ali is unlikely to be the last ‘declared foreigner’ in any of Assam’s six detention centres. But on Thursday, he became the last to be released from the only detention centre in Barak Valley as the beneficiary of a Supreme Court order.

A declared foreigner, or DF, is a person marked by any of the 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) in Assam for allegedly failing to prove their citizenship after the State police’s Border wing marks him or her as an illegal immigrant.

Mr. Ali, 69, an illiterate daily wager, was picked up by the Border police from his residence at Hatikhali in Dima Hasao district on June 5, 2018, and lodged in the Silchar detention centre in the adjoining Cachar district. It was too late when he learnt that an FT in Dima Hasao headquarters Haflong had on April 20 that year declared him a foreigner in a one-sided verdict. He was accused of not responding to a notice the Border police had pasted on the wall of his house, a notice he could not read.

‘Died every day’

“It is difficult to believe I am free, alive. I had died every day all these months in trying to find out what my crime was,” Mr. Ali said after walking out of the Silchar Central Jail with his wife Rabeya Begum.

The jail houses the Silchar detention centre. The other five – Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Jorhat and Tezpur – are also in as many jails.

Inspector-General of Prisons Dasarath Das said 339 DFs have been released from the detention centres till June 10 since an April 13 Supreme Court order requiring the conditional release of all DFs who had completed two years in captivity. The Silchar detention centre now has only four DFs. They will complete two years in 2021.

“More than 95% of those dumped in detention centres are Indians. But the foreigner-declaring industry has to harass people to justify the expensive set-ups,” said Silchar-based social activist Kamal Chakraborty, who had facilitated couple’s journey home to be with their two children.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 9:12:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/last-eligible-foreigner-freed-from-detention/article31808572.ece

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