Seven months ago, in October 2022, CJP came across the heart-rending case of Halima Bibi and her husband. They were both labourers, but due to debilitating poverty and her husband’s health, Halima Bibi is now forced to beg. There is no end to their troubles as the Assam Police suddenly served them notice for being “suspected immigrants”. The couple had no resources to fight for their citizenship, legally. Fear had gripped the household as the prospect of being stateless and detained in Assam’s detention centres meant the inevitable death of Halima Bibi’s husband.
When CJP’s Team member, HabibulBepari, the District Volunteer Motivator (DVM) from Dhubri district first met Halima Bibi and explained the nature of their work, promising to stand with her in her legal fight, Halima Bibi cried out in relief, promising prayers for CJP. CJP first learnt of Halima Bibi’s case in October 2022. CJP’s DVM (District Voluntary Motivator) and Community Volunteer informed the whole team about the vulnerabilities of the couple, after which CJP’s state in-charge, Nanda Ghosh, visited her home as well. Since then, over the past six months the team has been consistently checking up on her for matters pertaining to the FT notice and other concerns, such as her ailing health.
Halima Bibi and her husband, Taijul Sk, reside in the village of Uttar Morogodadhar. Apart from taking care of the finances as well as the household, she must take care of her husband, who is disabled. Of her five children, four were girls that she and her husband married off, and one was a boy who, the couple says sorrowfully, abandoned them, leaving them to fend for themselves. As she tries to make ends meet to put a day’s meal and medicine on the table for her and her husband, Halima Bibi finds that she must fight to prove her citizenship.
The couple had been a merry twosome, once working as farm hands or migrant labourers as their small family grew. Her husband’s condition was not congenital; he had been travelling for work when suddenly he went missing. Halima Bibi did not hear from him for three days. He was discovered heavily injured and bleeding, immobile yet alive, in a forest. Since then, circumstances have forced Halima Bibi to beg for a living.
Even this fragile yet contented state of survival Halima Bibi had managed with her husband was shaken to its core when the couple was sent a suspected foreigner notice by the Assam Police. On receiving this summons to the dreaded Foreigner Tribunal, Halima Bibi was aware that a possible end to it might mean her being sent to a detention camp. The very thought robbed the couple of their sleep for days on end. In another setback for the couple, Halima Bibi has been also marked as a ‘D’ voter! Despite having voted earlier – and having sufficient documents to disprove the claim, she could not challenge it. It was at this moment when Halima Bibi had lost all hope and means that CJP stepped in and counselled her – assuring her that the CJP’s team would guide and assist her throughout the whole process, instilling confidence in her for the team as well as for herself. CJP’s legal member Advocate Abhijeet Choudhury and of Dhubri district, Advocate Iskinder Azad, took over her case. CJP’s community volunteers also assured them they would guide and accompany her for her monthly visits mandated by the FT. In the following months, CJP’s team has been assisting her with a humane and dignified attitude – being cognisant of her vulnerabilities and struggles by making continuous visits to her. For instance, at the beginning of April, CJP’s team members went to notify the Dhubri tribunal when she was unable to make an appearance due to her ill health, along with requisite documents of proof of illness.
The team made a thorough examination of her documents, concluding that they would be able to present her case effectively and strongly, especially since she had her father’s name on the 1966 voter list, as well as all other necessary documents. Her name was not on any land papers belonging to her natal family, all the land her father had left was in her brother’s name. Therefore, for the few important documents remaining, CJP resolved to pair up with her brother and procure them. As CJP explained this to the couple, tears poured down Taijul Sk’s face, despite being unable to speak, the relief and hope were palpable and alive in his eyes.