Panic reigns in many sections of the population in Assam’s Chirang district as a fresh bulk FIR, with the potential of arming the police with arrest warrants against innocents names 250 persons guilty of being non-Indian, this time through violations alleged under the Passport Act of 1920 (with its Rules, 1950) and the Foreigners Act, 1946. Many of the 250 persons named have earlier been cleared of a previous allegation of being “foreigner” by a tribunal, or released from a detention camp, or are already facing another case before an FT under different charges.
This fresh assault by the state of Assam on large sections of the marginalized population in Chirang district is in the form of an FIR registered against 250 persons under under section 3 of the Passport Act 1920, read with (R/W ) Rule 6 of the Passport Rules,1950, R/W Sec 14 A (b) of the Foreigners Act 1946 R/W section 3 (c), (d) and (g) of Foreigners Act 1946). News of the FIR was received by CJP’s Team in Assam about a week ago after which hectic consultations began. This case has been filed in the name of about 250 people in this district.
Our inquiries have found that many of those named in this FIR had been earlier already released from detention camp, some of them had been “declared Indian” after an arduous legal process by a Foreigners Tribunal (FT). For some others in the FIR, their case before an FT is ongoing and pending even as they were served a fresh salvo in the form of a notice under the Passport Act by a local court. For a few, their ongoing citizenship cases are pending in the Gauhati High Court.
Team CJP first came to know about this through a victim’s family. Within a few days, we discovered that as many as 250 people have now been singled out by the state under the Passport Act in Assam’s Chirang District. The first notice in the district was sent to a woman namely Sandhya Rani Sarkar. Sandhya Rani, as soon as she received this notice went in panic to a lawyer where reportedly, she was asked for an astronomical Rs 2 lakh to resolve the case. Daunted by this, her son approached Team CJP and discussed the case. Her son said, “I have known of CJP and it helps people with different issues of Citizenship issues including D voter FT notice etc.” He added, “I even accompanied team CJP when some people were released from detention camps.” However, he continued “But when this type of notice came from court, I didn’t understand what it was, so I went to another lawyer with it, and when I saw that it was a lot of money, I got scared!”
It may be noted that Sandhya Rani faces earlier proceedings too in which her citizenship has been doubted: an FT notice was issued earlier in the name of Sandhya Rani Sarkar, she obtained bail and now her case is on before the High Court. The family and Sandhya Rani faced acute depression when notice of the fresh passport case was received by them!
Besides, notices were also issued in the names of Salma Khatun and Amala Das of Chirang district. These two Victim families have also contacted CJP. Now, Salma Khatun has already been declared Indian by an FT earlier. In addition, Amala Das is a released detenu from the Kokrajhar detention camp in a foreigner’s case. She was released on bail with the help of the CJP in 2021. She regularly presents herself before the local police station every week. Now, she is terrified that the fresh e Passport Act case came in her name. It looks like her ordeal will never end.
After hearing the news of these three women victims, Team CJP became alive to this fresh assault on citizenship rights of people of Assam. We held hectic consultations with the Team in Assam, CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad and Guwahati High Court advocate and member of CJP’s legal team, Mrinmoy Dutta. It was following a ground level inquiry that we found that more than 250 people have been victims of these cases in Chirang district.
The risky aspect of these cases is that the FIR comes with the threat and possibility of an arrest warrant. CJP Assam Team In-charge Nanda Ghosh, legal team members Abhijeet Choudhury, legal team member Dewan Abdur Rahim and CJP Volunteer Advocates have started working on this new batch of cases as there is concern and worry that though this first FIR against 250 persons has been filed in Chirang district of Assam, it is more than likely that similar cases will sprout up in various parts of Assam. So far a three pronged attack, now it appears that Passport Act cases constitute a newly found strategy of the government to target and harass genuine citizens.