March 22, 2018
About 150 inmates of a detention camp in Assam, declared foreigners by various tribunals, have triggered a crisis by fasting since Monday for an indefinite period.
The reason behind the hunger strike, officials said, is a slew of demands that include bail leave to fight their cases in Supreme Court and creation of separate detention camps across districts.
The Goalpara detention camp, about 140 km west of Guwahati, is one of six in Assam within district jails. Goalpara is the headquarters of Goalpara district bordering Bangladesh.
“I visited the detention camp today to explain the position of the government and urge the inmates to stop their fast. They said they will decide on their next course after discussing among themselves,” Ghanashyam Dass, Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara district, told The Hindu.
Amitabh Sinha, the district’s Superintendent of Police, said the inmates have been told their detention has been through a judicial process, not merely on the basis of suspicion.
“Many a Foreigners’ Tribunal has declared them foreigners. Some appealed to the Gauhati High Court, which upheld the decision of the tribunals. A few appealed to the Supreme Court where cases are pending,” Mr. Sinha said.
Assam has exactly 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals that handle cases referred by the Assam Border Police Organisation, whose primary job is to detect and detain foreign nationals in the State.
In February, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government had said in the Assembly that there were 899 declared foreigners across the six detention camps as on February 4. Of these, 251 were in Goalpara.
But last week, the total figure was revised to 52 in a reply to a question in the Assembly without any explanation.
Aman Wadud, a lawyer who takes up cases of D-voters (doubtful voters, another set of people in detention camps) and ‘foreigners’ voluntarily, said the process of detecting, detaining and deporting foreigners was faulty.
“There are cases where Indians, whose forefathers were never in places now in Bangladesh, have been declared foreigners just because they cannot put two and two together. Almost all of them are poor, illiterate villagers or labourers who have lost everything to establish their citizenship that should not have been questioned in the first place,” he said.
The paranoia about being outnumbered by Bangladeshis drives popular perception that Assam has a large number of “unwanted foreigners”.
The detention camp detainees are also treated differently from other inmates in jail for various crimes. For instance, they are not allowed to work for a wage unlike the others who can earn ₹55 or ₹75 a day depending on skills.
Source: The Hindu