Supreme Court our only hope says family of paralysed Assam man declared a foreigner
Every time someone from the family goes to meet him, they promise to bring him back home soon. But for now, the Supreme Court remains the only ray of hope for the family of Azizul Hoque, a partially paralysed man from Assam’s Nagaon district languishing in a detention camp for declared foreigners since 2017. Hoque even made it to the draft national register of citizens list in 2018 but was part of the recent list of exclusions.
“The Supreme Court will give us justice,” said Nazirul Islam, Hoque’s brother who does odd jobs for a living. The family stays in Singiapathar village of Nagaon district in central Assam.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, after accepting Hoque’s petition issued notices to the state government and the Centre.
According to Nazirul Islam, the problems for Hoque started in 1997, when for the first time the name of 41-year-old featured on the voters list but with a “D” next to it. He had been marked a suspected illegal immigrant, a doubtful voter.
As the proceedings of the case started in the foreigners tribunal in Nagaon, Hoque appeared for a couple of times in the beginning. In 2011, he was declared a foreigner ex parte after he failed to appear.
Responding to a question put up by MP Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy said 63,959 people have been declared foreigners ex parte in Assam out of a total number of over 1,00,000 declared foreigners.
One night in March 2017, Hoque was picked up by the Assam Police and taken to detention centre in Tezpur. “We told the police he is physically challenged and cannot even walk properly, but they expressed inability to help,” Islam said.
The family decided to approach the foreigners tribunal for a review of the ex parte ruling and subsequently the Gauhati High Court after the foreigners tribunal rejected the review.
Among other documents, to explain his absence from tribunal proceedings, Hoque submitted a medical certificate which said he suffers from paralysis of the lower limb and has been advised rest.
The High Court took cognizance of the medical certificate but noted he ought to have made alternative arrangements for the proceedings in the tribunal. The court also said the petition to review and vacate the ex parte order ought to have been filed within 30 days of the original order in 2011.
“We had no money then,” claims Islam.
The petition in the Supreme Court explained his absence from the tribunal proceedings and said “petitioner had to remain present before the tribunal during the proceedings because only he could have answered the questions being put to him. However being suffering from lower limb paralysis the petitioner was in no position to appear before the tribunal.”
It also notes how the foreigners tribunal and the HC took into account various documents in name the of his grandfather issued by the deputy commissioner of Nagaon in 1941-42 along with voter lists excerpts of 1965 showing name of his grandfather, grandmother, father and mother.
According to the petition, Hoque also produced the school certificate, “certifying his date of birth to be 5.03.1978 and therefore he is an Indian citizen by birth as per section 3 of the Citizenship Act.”
His family is still baffled on how he was branded a foreigner. “How can he be a foreigner, when everyone else in the family is an Indian,” said Islam. “Even we are against foreigners coming to Assam,” he said.