EXCLUSIVE: Assam’s former Dy Speaker’s grand nephew declared ‘Foreigner’

Despite intense media brouhaha about several members of the family of Moulavi Muhammad Amiruddin, the first Deputy Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly being served notice to prove their citizenship, a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Assam has now declared his grand nephew Rafikul Islam a ‘foreigner’. The order was passed on July 30, 2018… the same day as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) final draft was declared.

When a CJP team visited Assam in June 2018, we met several of MM Amiruddin’s family members. At that time 10 of them faced an uncertain future as their citizenship was being questioned despite their stellar pedigree. Now that number has gone up to 14!


Who was Moulavi Muhammad Amiruddin?

Moulavi Muhammad Amiruddin was a freedom fighter and the first Deputy Speaker of the Assam assembly (1937-1946). After independence, he became a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC). MM Amiruddin was especially respected for his strong stand against the Muslim League’s political ploy to merge Assam with East Pakistan.

Moulavi Mohammed Amiruddin’s name in the list of speakers in the Assam assembly

Even today his entire family including sons, nephews and grandsons, is highly respected by their fellow villagers who all turned up in solidarity when they discovered that the credentials of members of such an illustrious family have been questioned. When we met the family in June 10 of them had received notices about their citizenship. Today 14 members of this family are being forced to prove that they are indeed Indian, this despite having documents going back to 1919!

“If we are foreigners, so is everyone else,” thunders a livid Abdul Kadir who received a notice in April, 2018. His elderly father Mia Baksh was summoned to the police station in Solmari village, but let go after questioning when he produced documents of land ownership and revenue receipts. Abdul Kadir suspects the hasty and haphazard manner in which the NRC update was conducted was a deliberate attempt to keep out names of members of the minority community. “Musalmanon ko bahar nikalne kisaazish hai yeh,” he says.

Members of MM Amiruddin’s family show their citizenship documents

On July 30, even as the rest of Assam was eagerly awaiting the final draft of the NRC hoping that they had made it to the coveted list, the Foreigners’ Tribunal (no.3) of Morigaon ruled that Rafikul Islam was a ‘foreigner’ based on a discrepancy in the age of his father and grandfather as recorded in two different voters’ lists. Here is a copy of the FT order against Rafikul, who is a resident of Madhya Kalikajari village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Mikirbheta police station in Morigaon District of Assam.

FT Order in the matter of Rafikul Islam (Page-1)

FT Order in the matter of Rafikul Islam (Page-2)

FT Order in the matter of Rafikul Islam (Page-3)

FT Order in the matter of Rafikul Islam (Page-4)

FT Order in the matter of Rafikul Islam (Page-5)

Rafikul had submitted 23 documents to prove his citizenship before the FT. These documents including land records from 1930 that show that his great grand father Sadir Mandal owned land that was transferred to his descendants namely; Momir Uddin, Tamij Uddin, Moulavi Mohd Amiruddin, Safiruddin and Muzaffar Hussain. This Muzaffar Hussain had 9 sons, including Samsul Haque who is Rafikul Islam’s father. As per the Voters List of 1966, the age of Muzzaffar Hussain the grandfather of Rafikul Islam was recorded as 40 years. But in the Voters List of 1970 the age of his father Samsul Haque was wrongly recorded as 46 years, making his two years older than Muzzaffar Hussain. This erronous record is what cost Rafikul his citizenship.
But the family argues that the other 22 documents could have been taken into account instead of the one document which had an error, given the family’s illustrious history in the state. The harshness of the order is also not lost on anyone. It not only calls for the immediate deletion of Rafikul’s name from the Voter’s List, but also calls for his other documents to be seized and bank accounts frozen! It also asks for fresh references to be initiated against all immediate family members.

Concerns about functioning of Foreigners’ Tribunals

There are a whole host of allegations against the manner in which FTs operate in Assam. Some say that FTs are under pressure from the current administration to declare a large number of people as foreigners. This matter was flagged even by the United Nations (UN) when four Special Rapporteurs wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on June 11, 2018. In their letter they raised concerns about the sudden spike in the numbers of Declared Foreigners saying,
Concerns about the implementation of the NRC update have also been heightened by the increasing number of persons declared to be foreigners by Foreigners’ Tribunals. Out of a total of 468,934 referals to the Tribunals between 1985 and 2016, 80,194 people were declared foreigners. This figure increased drastically in 2017, reaching 13,434 in just eleven months. In this context, it is reported that members of Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam experience increasing pressure from State authorities to declare more persons as foreigners. On 21st June 2017, 19 members of the Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam were dismissed on ground of their under-performance over the last two years. More than 15 additional Tribunal members were issued with a strict warning to increase their efficiency. Considering that tribunal members serve on a contractual basis for two years, which may be extended on a needs and performance basis, these actions were perceived to be a thinly veiled threat to other Tribunal members.”
The Leader of the Opposition of the Assam Legislative Assembly Mr. Debabrata Saikia visited house of Former Deputy Speaker and strongly criticised the role of Border Police, District Administration and Government of Assam. He asked, “If the family members of the first Deputy Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly are dropped from the updated NRC, then for whom is this NRC being updated?” He demanded prompt action so these people are not dropped from the the final NRC. Even the AASU Leaders make a commitment that they will stand by the descriptions of Moulavi Mohd Amiruddin.
Our video story on the trials and tribulations of this family may be viewed here:
*With special inputs from Zamser Ali



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