Assam ‘foreigner’s’ body taken after justice promised

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Guwahati, October 22: The promise of justice by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal convinced the family of Dulal Paul, a mentally-challenged who was declared a “foreigner”, to accept his body, on the tenth day of his death on Tuesday.
Body of 64-year Paul remained lying in the morgue of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where he died on October 13 as his family demanded that he and his three sons be declared as Indian citizens first. His eldest son Ashis Paul told DH that his father was declared a foreigner in 2017 despite producing land document of 1965. “How can he be a foreigner when everyone having pre-1971 documents are being included in the NRC and accepted as Indians?” Ashis had asked.
“We still stand by our demand but since our Chief Minister promised justice to us and various organisations also promised support, we have agreed to take his body and perform the last rites. We hope the chief minister and the government will not retreat from their promise,” he told reporters.
Paul, who worked as a potter in Alisinga in Sonitpur district, about 130-km North West of Guwahati was declared a foreigner in October 2017 and subsequently detained. Jail authorities informed the family that Paul was suffering from diabetes and kidney ailment inside the detention camp. “My father developed diabetes due to the mental trauma he had undergone after he was detained. Also he was not provided treatment inside the camp,” Ashish, who works as a mechanic in a car garage, earlier said.
Sources said the state government told the family that it was not empowered to declare Paul as Indian citizens as he was declared a foreigner by a foreigner tribunal, which was upheld by Gauhati High Court. But the state government will take steps to fight the case in the Supreme Court.
Shiladitya Deb, a BJP legislator belonging to Hindu Bengali community said Paul’s family accepted the body after Chief Minister’s promise of justice. “But this case should be an example and a case study of how the community (Hindu Bengali) is being harassed in the name of detection of foreigners,” he said. Deb and All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation held meetings with the government to convince the family.
According to the federation, more than 50% of 19.06 lakh persons left out of the NRC are Hindu Bengalis.
Nearly 1,000 persons, mostly Muslims and Hindu Bengalis are presently lodged in six foreigner detention camps inside district jails across Assam, since they were declared foreigners by tribunals. There are 100 such tribunals dealing with over four lakh cases filed against suspected “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh. (Courtesy: DH)