Gopesh Das: A victim of institutional murder

As his wife rotted behind bars in a detention camp, Das died alone of a broken heart and crushed hopes of her release

Gopal Das

On December 15, Gopesh Das spoke to his wife Amala over the phone one last time. Amala was declared a ‘foreigner’ and is lodged at the Kokrajhar detention camp. For close to two years, her release was the only thing on Gopesh’s mind. But when nothing worked in his wife’s favour and she continued to remain behind bars, Gopesh died… his death an institutional murder. 

His wife Amala’s only regret, “I wish I could have seen him one last time.” Amala was allowed to leave the detention camp for one day to complete some religious rituals for her deceased husband, due to CJP’s intervention.

Amala’s plight

After Independence, Amala’s father Haricharan Das migrated to India from what was East Pakistan at the time. He even had a Citizenship Registration Certificate in his name dated 1951. In 1957, Haricharan purchased land that Amala ended up inheriting in 2014. There are documents of land purchase as well as transfer of ownership.

But none of these were deemed satisfactory by the Chirang Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) that declared Amala a ‘foreigner’ in 2017.

Gopesh loses hope

The couple, Gopesh and Amala Das, were residents of Bamnijhora village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Panbari police station in Chirang district of Assam. They have four sons and three daughters, who are marginal farmers and daily-wage workers.

With his wife of forty years forced to spend life behind bars, 63-year-old Gopesh started losing hope and feeling helpless.

“The toll the citizenship crisis takes over the mental health of people is immense,” says CJP Assam team adviser Zamser Ali who not only helped perform Gopesh Das’s last rites, but also helped secure Amala’s release from the Detention Camp for one day to complete religious formalities in wake of her husband’s death. “It isn’t the older people. Amala’s 9-year-old grandson lost consciousness due to grief when he saw his grandmother,” says Ali.

“Gopesh was healthy, but the grief of being parted from his wife took its toll. This was an institutional murder,” asserts Ali.

Gopesh Das is the 109th person to die due to the citizenship crisis in Assam. Recently, 104-year-old Chandrahar Das died in Cachar district. He was a registered refugee who was declared foreigner only because the dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and heart condition afflicted man could not recollect the year in which he crossed over into India.



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