‘Return years I’ve lost’: Assam woman declared a foreigner
Madhubala Mandal, 59, who returned home after spending more than two and a half years in a detention camp in Assam, wants the government to compensate for her lost time.
“I pleaded, showed them my documents, but they would not listen,” Mandal said recounting the day of her detention in November 2016.
She was released on Wednesday and taken to her residence in Bishnupur village in Chirang district of western Assam after an inquiry by the police revealed that it was indeed a case of mistaken identity and it was not her but one Madhumala Das who was declared a foreigner by a Foreigners Tribunal (FT).
An FT is a quasi-judicial body tasked with determining whether a suspected illegal immigrant is a foreigner or not.
“I told them I am Madhubala Mandal. I showed them my father’s name in the 1971 voter’s list. I showed them by election card. They told me there is no point of showing these documents now,” said Mandal.
She was taken to the detention camp which runs out of Kokrajhar jail.
According to Sudhakar Singh, superintendent of police, Chirang, who conducted an inquiry based on which Mandal was released, the case in the Foreigners Tribunal was registered in 1988 against one Madhumala Das who died 15 years ago.
When the tribunal finally issued notices to appear about a decade ago, another person of a similar name in the village received the notice.
According to Singh, the person appeared for two times after which Madhumala Das was declared a foreigner ex-parte in 2016, a decade after her death.
The police, meanwhile, picked up Mandal instead.
Ajay Rai who lodged a complaint more than two years ago against Mandal’s wrongful detention said, “She has nobody in her family except for a daughter who is deaf and mute. There was nobody to take up her case for a long time.”
Mandal said the condition of the detention camp was bad. “Bhaat [rice] was not good. The sabzi (vegetables) were bad,” she said adding how there was nothing to do there.
“I would just sit and do nothing,” she said.
Refusing to say anything about the police, she said, “It is good they finally realised that I am not Madhumala Das.”
But she is upset that this led to a waste of time and more than two and a half years in detention.
“They should at least compensate me with money,” Mandal said.
A senior official of the Border Organisation of the Assam Police, a special wing that handles cases of illegal immigrants, said a report has been sought on the issue and action will follow.