India detains retired army soldier declared ‘foreigner’

Monitoring Desk

CHANDIGARH: A retired army officer in India’s northeastern state of Assam has been sent to a detention center after being deemed a “foreign national”.

Mohammad Sanaullah served in the Indian Army for 30 years.

After being declared a non-citizen on Wednesday by a foreigners’ tribunal, he was sent to a detention center by police.

Since retiring from the army in 2017, Sanaullah has been working for the Assam border police, which deals with identifying and deporting illegal migrants.

“It is very disappointing. This is what he has been given in return for serving the country. A conspiracy was made and police gave the wrong report and the tribunal declared Mohammad a foreigner…It is a humiliation,” his cousin, Ajmal Haque, told Anadolu Agency.

“The aim is only to harass the [Muslim] community. Why after serving 30 years in the Indian Army are they now saying he is a foreigner?”

The family is now taking legal help, he said.

Local media reported that he was declared a foreigner on May 23 and he was taken into custody on Wednesday.

Mousumi Kalita, a senior police official in the area told Anadolu Agency that he was sent to detention centre, following the orders of foreign tribunal.

“He would be released, if he gets bail from the high court,” he said.

The NRC or the national register of citizens is unique to the border province of Assam – known for its tea gardens. The mechanism was set up in 1951, to identify illegal migrants entering into the province from Bangladesh.

Over the years the indigenous Assamese groups were demanding to update the NRC, as the province had seen waves of migration from Bangladesh as well as from neighboring provinces.

In 2015, the government started a process of updating the list.

According to new procedure only those people or their descendants, who have entered India till the midnight of March 24,1971, were deemed to be recognized as Indian citizens. The cutoff date coincided with the independence of Bangladesh.

The first draft of the list published last year, declared four million people as foreigners. The list is being scrutinized currently under the supervision of Indian Supreme Court. The final list is expected to come out by July 31.

Renowned Assam-based lawyer Aman Wadud said no investigation was conducted before Sanaullah was declared a foreigner.

“There was no investigation whatsoever before accusing Sanaullah of being a foreigner. The border police prepared the verification report without even meeting him. Police in its report mentioned him a labourer.”

The apex court on Thursday directed officers to be accurate, instead of rushing through verifying people to meet the July 31 deadline, local media reported. (AA)