Kolkata’s First NRC Victim to Walk Out ‘Stateless’ of Detention Camp in 2020

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Kolkata/Guwahati: Fifty-year-old Asgar Ali, a carpenter by profession, will be reuniting with his family in 2020 after completing his three-year-detention in Goalpara detention centre, Assam. But this time when he will meet his family, he will be “stateless”.

Asgar, a Kolkata-born carpenter who was eking out a living in Assam, got listed in the D-Voters category when National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being implemented in the state. However, as luck would have it an anomaly in the name of his father, put his Indian Citizenship at stake.

All in the name

Speaking to eNewsroom, Arshad Ali, one of Asgar’s brother said, “Our father had a very peculiar name – Sk Morol. We were often ridiculed by our neighbours and friends for this. Hence, my father changed his name to Md Jarif. However, we failed to update the name in some of our father’s document. And that made it easier for my brother to be stripped off his nationality.”

Arshad claimed that he and his family have been residing at 9, Chamru Khansama Lane in Ghaasbagan area of Kolkata, for decades and that he and his family are nothing but Indian. He said, “We are not that educated and have little understanding for correct documentation and that has worked against us. We are from Kolkata and have no other place of origin. We definitely are not Bangladeshi.”

Documents termed invalid

Arshad and his younger brother work as tailors, while Asgar had travelled to Assam in hope of better work opportunity. It has been 30 years now since he had settled in Assam’s Islampur district with his family. Zeeshan Ali, his Assam-based nephew said, “We presented almost all the documents that we could before the court, but the judges didn’t find them valid. Following which he was arrested and sent to the Goalpara detention camp. We had even petitioned before the Supreme Court, but our petition had been dismissed.”

No clear roadmap for NRC detainees

Speaking to eNewsroom, lawyer Aman Wadud, who along with advocate Anas Tanwir had represented Asgar, before the Gauhati High Court and the Apex Court, respectively, said, “Asgar is about to finish his second year in the detention centre this year. On completion of his 3-year-term, he will be released. But following his release, he will be declared ‘stateless’ as in his case, his place of origin couldn’t be traced to Bangladesh, so he will not be deported. But given the fact that the court didn’t honour any of the documents submitted by him, he is no longer an Indian.”

On being asked, what would be his fate then, he replied, “He like the 200 other detainees, will be released, but no road map has been decided by the government to take care of such individuals, who have been stripped off their citizenship but haven’t been identified as Bangladeshis. So they will continue to work in India as a stateless person.”

Why documents were declared invalid?

Explaining the reasons for Asgar’s documents being termed invalid by the court, he said, “His family from Kolkata couldn’t provide sufficient documents and the ones they shared were termed invalid by the court.” He even shared the legal documents with eNewsroom to understand the case.

The copy of the judgment, states, “There is nothing on record to show that Md. Jarif and Sk Moral is one and the same person. That apart and as rightly pointed out by the Tribunal, certified copy of this exhibit i.e. extract of electoral roll of 1966 was issued by one Subodh Ch. Das, Assistant Director, Director of State Archives, Higher Education Department, Government of West Bengal. Director of State Archives cannot be the custodian of electoral roll of assembly constituencies in the State of West Bengal. It is the Electoral Registration Officer of the concerned assembly constituency who would be the custodian of the electoral rolls of the said constituency.

Therefore, the certified copy issued by the Assistant Director, Director of State Archives, Higher Education Department, Government of West Bengal cannot be said to be a legitimate certified copy of the electoral roll of 1966 of Ballygunge Assembly Constituency. This coupled with the surrounding material contradictions which are apparent from the other documents on record, makes this document wholly unreliable, besides putting a question mark over its genuineness.”

Adding to that, “In such circumstances, we do not find any good ground to interfere with the impugned order passed by the Tribunal. Consequently, writ petition is dismissed. Interim order passed earlier stands vacated.”

Following which his appeal was dismissed by the SC and Asgar was sent back to the Goalpara detention centre, where he will be completing his detention tenure of three years, to walk out free, stateless and stripped off his citizenship.

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