Assam | 102-yr-old ‘foreigner’, lodged in Silchar jail, released on humanitarian grounds

Assam | 102-yr-old ‘foreigner’, lodged in Silchar jail, released on humanitarian grounds

The Hindu | June 29, 2018

Chandradhar Das, 102, went home from the Silchar Medical College Hospital on Thursday. But he did not know why, just as he had no idea why the police had taken him to a detention camp for foreigners in January.

"Thankfully, he hasn't be able to feel his ordeal because of dementia. What matters is that he is back home," the centurion's daughter Niyati Roy said from their home in Dholai, about 30 km from southern Assam's Silchar, headquarters of the Cachar district.

Jailed for deportation

Mr. Das was one of 109 men and women lodged in Silchar Central Jail as declared foreign nationals to be deported. As on May 15, six jails in Assam had 986 'declared foreigners' who are not entitled to minimum basic facilities that convicted criminals enjoy. On Wednesday, he was granted bail unlike others lodged in detention camps.

The State's Border Police, tasked with detecting and detaining foreigners, had suspected Mr. Das to be a Bangladeshi who entered Assam without valid documents after March 25, 1971. The district police chief referred his case to the Foreigners' Tribunal 6, or FT-6, which asked him to furnish documents to prove his nationality.

In its order on January 2, the tribunal said it had given enough opportunities to Mr. Das to file a written statement, and, "under the provisions of the Foreigners' Act, 1946, burden of proof lies on the O.P. (opposite party) to prove that he is not a foreigner". The case had gone against him "ex parte" because FT-6 did not have a government pleader for months.

Forum comes to aid

Unconditional Citizenship Demand Forum, a Silchar-based group, took up Mr. Das's case last week. "We came to know about his plight a few days ago when his daughter approached us. Whether or not he was a foreigner was secondary for us. We wanted a sick old man, who cannot remember anything, to get treatment and spend the last days of his life with his family," Kamal Chakraborty, the forum's leader, said. Members of the forum and Ms. Roy met Cachar Deputy Commissioner S. Lakshmanan on Tuesday, requesting his help in releasing the elder.

"We brought the case to the attention of the FT-6 member. He understood the sensitivity of the case and granted bail on humanitarian grounds as well as on legal count because the tribunal did not have a government pleader for a long time," Mr. Lakshmanan told The Hindu.

Mr. Das was taken to the hospital immediately after his release and provided treatment. He was discharged on Thursday morning. "We have known happiness after months," his daughter said.

Ms. Roy said she could not understand why her father was declared foreigner despite possessing a citizenship certificate issued in 1966 from Agartala in adjoining Tripura. Her citizenship as well as her mother's, incidentally, is not in doubt.

The old man's trip back home coincided with a government pleader being appointed for FT-6.

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