In June 2019, CJP led a delegation of eminent lawyers and journalists to Assam to take stock of ground realities. During our visit to Bijni in Chirang district we met Biswanath Das whose 70 year old mother Parbati has been languishing in the Kokrajhar Detention Camp for over 2 years and 8 months.
We informed Biswanath that as per a recent Supreme Court order, Parbati will be eligible for release when she completes three years in the detention camp. However he fears his aged and frail mother may not live that long on account of her deteriorating health. “I don’t want her to die in captivity. I want her to be comfortable and loved amidst her family, in her home,” he said barely able to maintain his composure.
Parbati was declared foreigner as she could not prove her linkage to her father. She was denied bail by the Gauhati High Court and is currently extremely ill. “I drive an e-rickshaw and can barely make ends meet. So far I have spent Rs 70,000/- on lawyers and another Rs 1,00,000/- on travel to and from the Foreigners’ Tribunal and the Gauhati High Court,” said Biswanath.
Parbati’s case and documents
A reference was made against Parbati in September 2005 at the Foreigners’ Tribunal at Dhubri. It was transferred in May 2008 to Bongaigaon when a new FT was set up there. Parbati missed the first few hearings, but made it to the FT on July 2, 2008 and submitted her documents. She missed a few other subsequent hearings but her submissions included a copy of her father’s ration card from 1949 and a copy of her fathers name in the electoral rolls of 1970. The Gaon Panchayat secretary had also issued her a link certificate (Gaon Burah certificate) which was also presented to build Parbati’s case. Parbati’s documents may be viewed here:
But her father Sharat Chandra Das was considered ‘projected father’ by the FT. This is because of a discrepancy in her grandfather’s name on two different documents. The FT ruled that the Gaon Burah certificates were unreliable and that they do not establish Parbati’s link to her projected father. She was declared a foreigner and sent to the Kokrajhar detention camp where as of June 2019, Parbati has spent 2 years and 8 months.
A copy of the FT judgment may be read here.
Plight of married women
Inability to showcase linkage with their father’s family is a common problem faced by married women from low income and socially backward communities. These women rarely have birth certificates as most are not born in hospitals. They are illiterate and therefore don’t have school leaving certificates. They are married off at an early age and their names are only entered into the voters list in the village where their husband’s family lives. The Panchayat Secretary or Gaon Burah’s certificate though valid is considered a weak document and therefore requires another strong document to back it up.
This explains why more than half of the people left out of the NRC draft released on July 30, 2018 were women.
Housewives and grandmas as infiltrators?
The big question still remains. Even if the right-wing supremacist forces peddle the “ghuspethia” or “infiltrator” narrative, how dangerous can a 70 year old woman be? What is her motive in illegally entering India? Are we going to suspect our grandmothers of terrorism now, or are we the terrorists striking fear in the hearts of frail old women... forcing them to live, rot away and die in detention camps?
Also Read:SC offers Relief to Assam Detention Camp Inmates
Petition against Assam’s Detention Camps in SC
Where hope fades and time stands still: Assam’s Detention Camps
Bengali Hindu labeled “Bangladeshi”, found dead in Assam Detention Camp
Pregnant and Helpless in a Detention Camp