Md Azmal Hoque, who retired as a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the Indian Army after serving for 30 years, has got a notice from the Foreigners’ Tribunal of Kamrup district, asking him to prove that he was an Indian citizen and had not illegally entered the country from Bangladesh after 1971.
“I have served the Army for 30 years and was posted several times in the border areas where we were engaged in thwarting infiltration. One year after returning to my home state on retirement I get this notice asking me to explain why I should not be identified as a foreigner under provisions of the Foreigners’ Act of 1946,” Hoque told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Hoque, who settled down in Guwahati after retirement, said a police officer from Boko police station reached his ancestral house in Kalahikash village of Kamrup district in the first week of September with a notice against him from the tribunal.
“My younger brother refused to receive it and informed me after the police officer left. When I went to the police station a few days later to enquire about it, the officer told me it was a notice asking me to prove my Indian citizenship by September 11, which had been sent back, and got me a fresh notice with a later date for appearance,” Hoque said. He has now been asked to appear before the tribunal on October 13.
“Have I been rewarded with this notice for serving the country’s defence, during which period I got six promotions?” he said. He said he wept the entire night after getting a copy of the notice last week. “What else could I do?”
Hoque said he was born on February 1, 1968 in Kalahikash, and that his family has been here for decades. “Our family has been here for decades…. The name of my father, late Md Moqbul Hussain, is in the 1966 electoral rolls of Kamrup district, while my mother Rahimunnessa’s name appears in the 1951 electoral rolls,” he said.
According to Hoque, he did his primary education at the Tamuldi Maqtab Primary School and then attended the Majartop ME Madrasa before taking the Class X Board finals from Champupara High School in 1985. He joined the Army as a jawan in 1986 while he was still in Class XII at the BP Chaliha College at Nagarbera, about 120 km from Guwahati.
“I have served in various parts of the country, including the border with Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir,” said Hoque. His son Elias is a student at the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun, and daughter is a Class VIII student in the Army Public School in Narangi (Guwahati).
“This is nothing but a calculated move to harass people of our community. What I have gathered is that while several thousand people have been served such notices, about 85 per cent of the cases have turned out to be baseless and thus dismissed by the tribunals after examining the documents,” Hoque said.
This is the not first time Hoque has seen such a notice. “My wife Mamtaj was served with such a notice in 2012 when I was posted in Chandigarh. We had to rush to Assam and prove her citizenship. A few years ago, my elder brother’s wife too had gone through the same humiliation.”
The Army has assured Hoque of assistance. “The JCO has been contacted and necessary assistance will be provided till the issue is resolved,” the Eastern Command headquarter tweeted in response to a tweet by one Major D P Singh on Saturday. Major Singh had retweeted a message by Haque’s lawyer Aman Wadud, highlighting the plight of the JCO.