MHA to probe allegations against functioning of Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam

The arbitrary manner in which Foreigners’ Tribunals are declaring people ‘foreigners’ in Assam has not gone unnoticed by international human rights agencies like the UN. Also given how lakhs of Bengali Hindus who the BJP hopes to cultivate into a loyal vote bank have been excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) final draft published on July 30, the government has been forced to act.

Foreigners Tribunal

In a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) communication on September 10, 2018, AK Pandey, Joint Director, MHA has advised Pramod Kumar, Director (Foreigners), MHA, that Gautam Kumar, Under Secretary, Rajya Sabha Secretariat had forwarded representation from Advocate AK Talukdar. Talukdar who is the President of the Nagrik Adhikar Suraksha Manch, had in a letter dated August 6, 2018 drawn attention to the plight of members of the Bengali community who were genuine Indian citizens, but allegedly facing harassment and being declared ‘foreigners’. This representation was forwarded to Kumar for further action as the Foreigner’s Division was dealing with it.

The MHA communication may be viewed here:

Subsequently, in an internal memo of the Ministry of Home Affairs dated September 10, 2018, R.P Sati, Under Secretary (Citizenship) has directed Satyendra Garg Joint Secretary (North East) to act on Talukdar’s representation.
The memo may be viewed here:

As many as 4,07,707 people were left out of the NRC final draft published on July 30, 2018. One of the reasons behind the large number is that siblings and family members of Declared Foreigners (DF) were also excluded from the draft based on a controversial order passed by the NRC State Coordinator on May 2, 2018 that was upheld by the Gauhati High Court.

It is the Foreigners’ Tribunals that declare people foreigners. The Border Police refers suspected foreigners to the FT. People marked as Doubtful or D-Voters are also referred to FTs. Presently there are 100 FTs across Assam. The burden of proof in a trial before an FT lies on the proceedee, meaning people have to submit documentation to prove their citizenship and also prove the authenticity of the documents. Often people are declared foreigners due to minor discrepancies in the way in which they spell their names or dates in their documents.

There are several serious allegations about how FTs operate. It is alleged that although FTs had been declaring people foreigners even before the BJP came to power in Assam, there has been a huge surge in these numbers after the BJP formed the government in the state. It is also alleged that the BJP incentivizes FT judges to declare more people as foreigners by rewarding such judges with extended tenures. But now that lakhs of Bengali Hindus have been excluded from the NRC, the MHA is probing the functioning of FTs.




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