Tripura man declared foreigner, sent to detention centre in Assam

Authorities say he had been avoiding notices since 2017, had migrated over 20 years ago.

July 13, 2019 10:02 pm | Updated 10:02 pm IST - Guwahati

Google Maps image locates the Birubari locality in Guwahati.

Google Maps image locates the Birubari locality in Guwahati.

A 45-year-old man from Tripura was on Saturday sent to a detention camp after being declared a foreigner.

The police said Tapan Debnath, from Rabindranagar village in the Sonamura police station limits in Tripura, was arrested from the Birubari locality here on Friday evening. He was sent to the Goalpara Central Jail.

An officer of the border wing said the man had since 2017 been avoiding notices from it as well as those from a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) to which his case was referred. “He paints buildings for a living, has a wife and two children, and as per the statement recorded when he was marked as a suspected non-citizen two years ago, he came to Guwahati from Tripura when he was 21. But not only did he ignore the notices issued over the past 24 or 25 months, he kept changing his rented house and ignored our calls,” a border wing officer at the city’s Fatashil Ambari police station said.

The police found his door locked every time they tried to contact. “As per the Supreme Court’s order, we pasted a duplicate notice of the FT on the wall of the house after speaking to the landlord,” the officer said, declining to be quoted.

After his arrest, Mr Debnath showed the copy of his father’s citizenship certificate of 1956. “Citizenship certificates issued in Tripura are considered invalid in Assam because of the dubious ways in which they are known to be acquired,” the officer said.

The man declared foreigner ex-parte (one-sided) by the FT for not appearing for hearing acquired a voter ID in Guwahati and had voted for the first time in 2014, the police said. “Since the matter is now in court, there is nothing we can do now for the man who ignored us when there was still time,” the officer said.

Minor out of NRC

N. Hussain is at a loss explaining how his 9-year-old daughter, a class 3 student, was excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) and declared a foreigner.

“There are no cases of doubtful voter or foreigner pending in any FT against any member of our family. The names of every other family member figure in the NRC but my daughter has been placed in the additional exclusion list,” said Mr. Hussain, a resident of Iswarijhar in western Assam’s Bongaigaon district.

The exclusion list was published on June 26.

The ‘foreigner’ notice to his daughter, signed by the Local Registrar of Citizens Registration, was sent on June 29. On July 5, the family filed a fresh appeal for re-inclusion of the 9-year-old girl’s name in the NRC.

Officials involved with the NRC updating process said the girl would be re-included in the NRC as her parents’ names are in the citizenship list. “This appears to be a case of mistaken identity,” he said.

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