Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tragedy of Assamese Muslims: How Indian citizens are dubbed foreigners in their own country, face harassment in Assam

Advocate Aman Wadud highlighted the plight of Assamese Muslims in a series of Tweets, that went viral on Wednesday.

Apart from riots and ethnic cleansing, Muslims in Assam are also battling extreme prejudices and systematic persecution.

Wadud and the organization Myfacts fought for Moinal Mollah, a Assamese Muslim, whose name was put in 'D-category' .

In the series of tweets, the lawyer writes how being a Muslim in Assam 'is a constant struggle to survive violence, persecution, discrimination and harassment'.

The burden of proving that you are an Indian citizen, rests on the victim.

There are lakhs of Muslims facing this challenge. It took a year before Mollah could get legal reprieve and was accepted as an Indian citizen. But there are tens of thousands who don't have the money to fight cases.

Do read:

1. Being a Muslim in Assam is a constant struggle to survive violence, persecution, discrimination and multi-facet harassment.

2. Cyclic targeted killings are only one aspect of constant persecution. Administration has many other ways to harass and persecute Muslims.

3. Several lakhs Muslims in Assam are facing brutal persecution in the name of 'D' or Doubtful voters and Reference cases.

4. Citizenship of Muslims is doubted by the state and they are forced to go through rigorous trial without any prior investigation.

5. In 1997, Election Commission of India marked more the 3,70,000 people as 'D'voters, mostly Muslims but also included Bengali Hindus, Koch Rajbangshi, Nepali and others.

6. The Process of identification is dubious and it is alleged that lower officials of ECI were asked to mark at least 20 voters as 'D'in each village.

7. Ideally Election officers should mark 'D' in voters list before name of a person who fails to provide citizenship documents during survey.

8. But Election officers rarely follow due process and marks a person as ‘Doubtful’ voters arbitrarily without seeking and checking documents

9. When a person is marked as 'D' voter, he/she cannot vote, his name is deducted from PDS benefit list. And most of the D voters are poor.
10. Women consist of more than 60% of total D voters. PDS benefits are life line for many. Once you are D voter, that life line is also gone

Indigenous Assamese Muslims facing existential crisis

11. ‘D’ can be deleted from voters' list by Foreigners Tribunal if held as Indian. D voters are sent to FT to determine whether they are Indian or not.

12. Another tool used mainly against Muslims is “Reference Case”(similar to charge-sheet) A Reference case is sent against a suspected citizen.

13. There is Border Police Department of Assam Police, Border Police has its presence in all Police Station across Assam.

14. Border Police is supposed to survey villages and if a person cannot produce documents on demand of police, he should be given time to submit documents.

15. If the person cannot submit  citizenship documents he is marked as “suspected citizen” by Border Police.

British law meant for enemies, used against own citizens

16. A suspected citizen is charge-sheeted or a Reference Case is send 2 Foreigners Tribunal. FT send notice to“suspected citizen to appear before it.

17. The modus operandi of Police is to mark a person as suspected citizen, and Reference Case with out asking 4 any documents or any investigation whatsoever.

18. Foreigners Tribunal is governed by Foreigners Act 1946, where the burden of proof lies on the opposite party or the ‘suspected citizen.'

19. Foreigners Act finds its roots in Foreigners Ordinance 1939 which was enacted to deal with war emergency situation during world war II.

20. Foreigners Act 1946, was passed by British Parliament for expulsion of foreigners mainly from Axis countries.

21. The colonial Act which was enacted for expulsion of enemies is now imposed on poor and illiterate citizen to prove their citizenship.
22. So if a poor and illiterate citizen don’t appear before the Tribunal,he/she can be held a ‘foreigner’ ex-parte. Which happens in 95% cases.

23. In 2012 the Assam govt published white paper on foreigners issue. It says 88192 cases were disposed between 1998 and 2012 by Tribunals.

24. Out of 88192 cases only 6590 were declared as foreigners i.e.93% of 'D' voters & ‘suspected citizens’ hv proved their Indian nationality.

25.When 93% poor and illiterate people marked as Suspected Citizen can prove citizenship.IT says all about investigation which marked them “suspected citizen.”

95% declared foreigners by 'ex-parte judgments; 55,000 till last two months

26. In 2015 Assam Police put a list of 7K ‘un-traced foreigners’ on public domain.The list has ‘un-traced foreigners’ from 13 districts of Assam.

27. Out of 13 districts, 3 districts provided the information regarding ‘manner of judgment’ i.e. ex- parte or contested.

28. Mangaldoi district data reveals that out of 208 declared foreigners only 1 person contested, remaining ninety nine. As many as fifty two percent people declared foreigner ex-parte.

29. More than 95% people declared as Foreigners are declared by ex-parte judgment. Till two months ago 55,000 people have been declared foreigner.

30. Once declared a foreigner,one might hv 2 spend rest of life in detention,without a Parole, if the FT order is not set aside by HC and SC

Victims don't have money to fight court cases

31. Forget about the Supreme Court, majority people declared as foreigner are too poor to even approach High court.

32. There are many Indian citizens damned as foreigners are languishing in detention camps. They might breathe their last in detention.

33. Just because a person is held  a foreigner by exp-parte judgment doesn’t mean he is foreigner. The Moinal Mollah case is classic example.

34. Mollah and parents wr marked “D” voters in 1997.His parents were sent notice by erstwhile IMDT. They appeared & wr held Indian citizens.

35. Moinal Mollah ws sent notice much later by Foreigners Tribunal.He appeared thrice, but because of ill advice of his lawyer he stopped appearing

Victim's petition was dismissed thrice, long legal battle brought him justice

36. Moinal Mollah was held a foreigner by ex-parte judgement. He came to know two years later that he has been held a foreigner.

37. Moinal Mollah approached Gauhati High Court, his petition was dismissed thrice. He was arrested on 05-09-2013 and sent to detention camp

38. Mollah had only one option- Supreme Court. He was too poor to approach Hon'ble SC. Our org MYFACTS helped him to approach Supreme Court.

39. By order dated 12.07.16 Honble SC gave Mollah an opportunity to file written statement before Foreigners Tribunal , Barpeta, Assam.

40. On 3rd August,2016, Moinal Mollah was released from Goalpara detention camp after being detained for almost three years.

41. On the blessed day of 14th October 2016, Foreigners Tribunal Barpeta held Moinal Mollah an Indian citizen by birth. He is no more a foreigner now.

42. COPY of the judgment that held Moinal Mollah an Indian citizen. We took up this case pro-bono. It took more than a year of hard work.                                              

43. Moinal Mollah’s case is a classic example which proves that just because a person is held foreigner by Tribunal, does not mean he is one.

44. There are thousands of Moinal Mollahs. Many languishing in detention camp without a parole. Some will breathe their last in detention

How Indian born termed 'foreigner: How can State treat our own citizens so mercilessly?

45. Mollah was detention for 3 years leaving behind wife and three daughters. Two of his younger brothers didn’t marry because he was in detention.

46. In the HC we are fighting case of a couple Hunti Ali and Rabia. They held as foreigners on frivolous ground. In detention for 8 months now.

47. Hunti Ali and Rabia Begum has three sons, all stays with relatives now after parent's arrest. Elder one only 13 dropped out of school.

48. Every Indian Citizen held as “foreigner” has similar heart wrenching stories to tell. IF this don’t outrage us, wonder what exactly will.

49. After dealing with scores of cases I can say with all conviction that majority people held as “foreigner” are genuine Indian citizens.

The tweets were made through the handle MuslimVoicesIndia: @MuslimVoicesIn
Advocate Aman Wadud tweets at @AmanWadud 

[The book Assam's Doubtful Citizens can be obtained from Pharos Media]