In a shocking new development, as many as ten new detention centers could come up in Assam, if the government has its way. Hindustan Times quoted an unnamed top state government official familiar with the plans saying, “We are sending a detailed project report for ten more detention centres to the Centre shortly for approval."
The official told Hindustan Times that given how there is no clarity on what happens to those people whose names will not appear in the upcoming National Register of Citizens (NRC) that will be published by July 31, 2019, the state is taking measures to prepare of an increase in people who are declared foreigners. He said,“The number of declared foreigners will go up after the NRC.While there is still no clarity or policy on what is to be done with those who are out of NRC and eventually declared foreigners; this step is to maintain our level of readiness." The government has also reportedly identified sites for these facilities.
Presently, Assam has six detention camps that operate out of make-shift facilities in local prisons in Goalpara, Dhibrugarh, Silchar, Tezpur, Jorhat and Kokrajhar. The last is the only one where women are lodged. The detainees are lodged here till they are deported to the country of their origin or are able to secure their release. As per a submission made before the Assam Assembly on March 26, 2018, over 900 people are detained at these detention camps and close to 30,000 people have been deported since 1985. The state's first stand-alone detention camp is under construction in Goalpara, reportedly at a cost of Rs 460 million and with a capacity to lodge 3000 inmates.
CJP has highlighted the plight of people who have survived the horrors of detention camps. 61 year old Jobbar Ali died under unexplained circumstances at the Tezpur Detention Camp in October 2018. Earlier, in May 2018, Subrata De died under mysterious circumstances in Goalpara. And then there are instances where just spelling your name differently on two documents can land you in a Detention Camp! Take the case of Saken Ali, who was forced to spend five years in a Detention Camp just because some of his documents showed his name spelled with an extra ‘H’ or as Sakhen Ali. The sick are handcuffed to their hospital beds as we discovered in the case of a shivering and emaciated Ratan Chandra Biswas.
Even pregnant and elderly women are not spared! Rashminara Begum was thrown behind bars despite being three months pregnant. The Supreme Court ordered the release of 50 year old Sofiya Khatun on a Personal Release Bond in September 2018. Her experience was so traumatic that even 15 days after coming back home, she could not utter a single word!
In 2018, Human Rights activist Harsh Mander moved Supreme Court siting the deplorable conditions of Assam’s Detention Camps and asking for fair, humane and lawful treatment of inmates. Though, Mander was himself removed as a petitioner amidst high drama, the court did offer some relief to detainees in May 2019, when it paved the way for discharge of detainees under some conditions.