The BJP-led Himanto Biswas Sarma government has now established a permanent “detention camp” in Assam. This camp, reportedly one of several, will be officially called a “transit camp”, to house those individuals that have been ‘declared foreigners’ in Assam. (A simple notice from the Assam Border Police, often without requisite evidence or reasoning is often the only ground that this stigma of ‘declared foreigners’ is labeled on to citizens). This “transit camp”, located in Matia under the Goalpara district of Assam, has been built on 20 bighas of land. Until now, six (temporary) detention camps were being used within Assam to house such individuals that had been declared foreigners. These temporary camps operate from jails in Goalpara, Kokrajhar,Tejpur,Silchar, Diburugarh and Jorhath. Kokrajhar is the only one for women.
Now, in Matia, the government has inaugurated a new and permanent, Asia’s biggest, transit camp, which has started operations from January 27, 2023, one day post Republic Day. It is essential to mention here that a notification had been issued by the Government of Assam on August 17, 2021, wherein it was provided that henceforth, detention camps in the state of Assam would be known as “Transit Camps” for detention purposes. The notification, issued by Niraj Verma, IAS who served as the Principal Secretary to the Government of Assam in the Home and Political Department, however, did not offer any explanation for the latest move.
According to information provided to the team of CJP district volunteer motivators in Assam by local residents, on January 20, 2023, sixteen personnel were appointed –in a rather irregular fashion –to work in the detention camp. To date, the Assam government is yet to make any formal announcement about these appointments. As the opening of this camp was supposed to provide employment, which has not happened, local residents have even demonstrated in protest in front of the detention camp. Advocate Ashim Mubarak and other Citizens for Justice and Peace community volunteers were told by the protesters that the government conducted the recruitment procedure in an atmosphere of complete secrecy. “The government has not advertised for new employees. There was no notice posted outside the gate.”
Protesters also claimed that “During the elections, the BJP had stated in their manifesto that the unemployed from the local areas would be hired in grade IV positions within government. However, the recruitment process did not live up to the BJP’s promise.”
Meanwhile, on January 27, 2023, it has been also reported that 68 detainees have been re-located from Goalpara jail to Matia permanent detention camp/transit camp. There are 45 males, 21 females, and two children constituting the 68. According to residents, “the detainees were moved here in two buses under strong police security.”
The Central Secretary of All BTR Bengali Youth Federation, Brojogopal Sarkar spoke with the Team, and said that, “In 2014, Modi came for the Assam elections and said that he will dismantle detention camps if he comes to power. However, a permanent detention camp has been constructed here.”
As was published in Ganoshokti, a local Bengali newspaper, Nani Das, CPIM (M) leader of Goalpara District further said that, “The whole country already knows what sort of torture is afoot within these detention camps in Assam, individuals have already died in the detention camps unable to withstand such treatment.”
In 2020, during the period of the COVID pandemic lockdown, CJP had demanded that the upcoming Goalpara detention camp be turned into a medical (quarantine) center to isolate and treat those infected with the deadly corona virus.
CJP’s Assam team has been actively involved in assisting Assamese individuals, who have been wrongfully accused of being foreigners in their own country, to prove their citizenship. Over the years, the CJP’s Assam team has persevered in defending the rights of some of the state’s most marginalised citizens, regardless of ethnicity. From engaging with state authorities to ensure that quality level legal aid reaches people through the taluka and District Level Statutory Legal Authorities (DLSAs), to fighting legal battles in the Foreigner’s Tribunals, to providing Legal and Para Legal training workshops, the CJP’s Assam team has been working with the goal of assisting people in retaining their citizenship and dignity.