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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

In Assam, family listed in NRC but daughter in detention centre since 2009

Halima Khatoon, was declared a foreigner by a foreigners tribunal in Nagaon in 2008. She was later picked up by the police in 2009 and detained.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2018 23:04 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Dhing (Assam)
A paramilitary person walks past as people whose names were left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft stand in a queue to collect forms to file appeals near a NRC center on the outskirts of Guwahati on August 13.
A paramilitary person walks past as people whose names were left out in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft stand in a queue to collect forms to file appeals near a NRC center on the outskirts of Guwahati on August 13.(AP Photo)
         

Every time Abul Kasem goes to the Kokrajhar central jail, one of the cops who is on duty jokes with him. “How is it that you are an Indian citizen and your daughter is a Bangladeshi,” Kasem, a 66-year-old farmer said recalling the joke.

Kasem lives in Sonaibera village in Dhing in Nagaon district of central Assam, not very far from the birthplace of Sankardeva, a saint-scholar and one of the most revered figures of Assam. One of his daughters, Halima Khatoon, was declared a foreigner by a foreigners tribunal in Nagaon in 2008. She was later picked up by the police in 2009 and detained. It has been more than nine years, Halima continues to be in Kokrajhar Central Jail, which also houses a makeshift detention centre for women, one of the six detention centres in Assam. Out of more than 90,000 declared foreigners, around 1,000 are in detention in these six centres.

Kasem, his wife Hajera, and four of his children except Halima were part of the final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30.

Kasem’s documents include voters identity card, certified copies of his name in the earlier voters list, and a legacy document which is proof that Kasem’s family has been in Assam before the citizenship cut off date of March 25, 1971. “Even her husband’s side of then family and her five kids are in NRC,” Kasem said.

The bundle also has the 2008 order of the tribunal which said Halima ceased to produce evidence to disprove states allegation (she is a foreigner) and that is how the case was taken ex parte. The case went to the high court where a single judge bench in 2013 was not convinced about her documents. She had submitted among other documents of her parents, a certificate by the Gaon Bura (village headman) that she was Kasem’s daughter. The court did not entertain her 2015 appeal because it was delayed.

“The cop demanded Rs 8,000 and said he could sort out the matter,” Kasem claimed recalling the conversation in Dhing police station in 2009. Kasem was told his daughter is a “Bangladeshi, a Bidekhi”. Halima’s husband is recovering from cancer in a Guwahati Hospital, so her father visits her every few months. “I have spent over a lakh for the case in high court... Maati bech di (sold my land). She always asks when will I get her out. I am still hopeful someday her wait will end,” he added.

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 22:05 IST