Body of 'foreigner' lying in morgue for five days

Dulal Paul

Family of a mentally ill potter, who died in a foreigner detention camp in Assam two years after he was declared a foreigner, declined to accept his body on the fifth day on Thursday.

Wife and three sons of the deceased, Dulal Paul, a Bengali Hindu has demanded that the state government must declare him and his family as Indian citizens or send the body to Bangladesh. "My father was wrongfully declared a foreigner by a tribunal despite having land document of 1965. How can a person be a foreigner when anyone producing pre-1971 documents are being included in the NRC as Indians? We will accept the body and perform his late rites only when we are given a written assurance that my father will be declared as an Indian and accordingly our names are included in the NRC. Otherwise, we will also be put in detention camp and die like my father one day," Paul's elder son, Ashish Paul told DH on Thursday.

Paul, a resident of Alisinga in Sonitpur district, about 130-km NorthWest of Guwahati was declared a foreigner in October 2017 and subsequently detained. Jail authorities informed the family that Paul was suffering from diabetes and kidney ailment inside the detention camp. "My father developed diabetes due to the mental trauma he had undergone after he was detained. Also he was not provided treatment inside the camp," Ashish, who works as a mechanic in a car garrage, said.

Nearly 1,000 persons, mostly Muslims and Hindu Bengalis are presently lodged in six foreigner detention camps inside district jails across Assam, since they were declared foreigners by tribunals. There are 100 such tribunals dealing with over four lakh cases filed against suspected "illegal migrants" from Bangladesh. Those failing to prove with documents that they or their forefathers lived in Assam on or before March 24, 1971 have been declared foreigners and detained. But families of many of them and activists in Assam has raised questions over credibility of the tribunals as they are headed by lawyers or retired bureaucrats. 

"District administration officials, local MLA and police are making verbal promise that they will help us to include our names in the NRC. But when i asked them to give the assurance in writing, they refused. How can i trust them?" Ashis asked saying that the family had spend nearly Rs. two lakh to fight his father's case. 

All Assam Bengali Youths Students' Federation, in a letter to chief minister Sarbanda Sonowal on Thursday demanded that Paul be declared an India citizen and their family be included in the NRC as per the guidelines. The federation also demanded that all those detained in detention camps be released. 

According to the federation, more than 50% of the 19.06 lakh applicants, who have been left out of the NRC are Hindu Bengalis like Paul. 

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