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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

9 years after son died under citizenship cloud, Assam woman declared Indian

The Foreigners Tribunal (FT) in Cachar district's Silchar ruled that Akol was “not a foreigner” after she had successfully proved her case by “adducing cogent, reliable and admissible evidence”.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: May 12, 2022 8:39:08 am
Guwahati, Guwahati news, Foreigners Tribunal, Assam, Assam news, citizenship, citizenship news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsAkol Rani Namasudhra

NINE YEARS ago, her son allegedly died by suicide after being served a notice to prove his citizenship in Assam. Three months ago, she received a similar notice. On Wednesday, she was finally declared “Indian”.

It’s a “very happy occasion” for her family. But 82-year-old Akol Rani Namasudhra doesn’t know it yet. “We will break the news to my mother in the morning…we went through a lot because of this case,” said Anjali Roy, Akol’s daughter, who had successfully defended her own citizenship in 2015.

The Foreigners Tribunal (FT) in Cachar district’s Silchar ruled that Akol was “not a foreigner” after she had successfully proved her case by “adducing cogent, reliable and admissible evidence”.

A resident of Haritikar village, about 20 km from Silchar, Akol was summoned by the Tribunal earlier in February, based on a case first registered in 2000 alleging she had “illegally” entered India after March 25, 1971.

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However, it was her children Anjali and Arjun, who both received summons from the Tribunal in 2012 to prove their citizenship. Disturbed by the summons, the family says Arjun took his own life.

The news had led Narendra Modi, while campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Cachar before becoming the Prime Minister, to say he was pained by the death. “In the name of detention camps, the Assam government (of the Congress) violated human rights. Arjun’s death was not in vain. He had died for the rights of the lakhs who are inside detention camps in Assam. He sacrificed his life…we will not let it go in vain,” Modi had said.

In 2015, Anjali was declared Indian by the Tribunal.

However, in what Anjali described as a “shock”, Akol was served a notice in February 2022. “We had already gone through a lot because of what happened to my brother. We could not believe that after all that, after what the Prime Minister said, my mother would have to go through it again,” she said.

Local lawyers helped the family. “They bore all the costs, without charging us anything. So that was a relief,” said Anjali, 55.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Silchar-based advocate Anil Dey said Akol was a “genuine” resident of Assam. “She was born and brought up here. Apart from her name appearing in voters lists in 1965, 1970, 1977…she also had pre-1971 land deeds in her name,” he said, adding that this was the basis on which they were able to prove her citizenship.

At the Tribunal, Akol had submitted that her father Gopi Ram Namasudhra was a permanent resident of Haritikar — and that after her marriage to Ananta Kumar Namasudhra, she cast her vote for the first time in 1965 in the village which fell under the Katigorah Legislative Assembly constituency.

During cross-examination, Akol said her daughter was declared Indian in 2015 on the basis of her voter documents.

In his opinion, Dharmananda Deb, Member, FT-4 (Silchar) said it appeared that Akol had been “casting her vote from the year 1965 till date” and submitted her name on the electoral roll of 1965, 1970, 1977 and 1985. He also said Anjali was declared Indian on the “basis of Voter List of 1965 containing the name of her parents i.e. Ananta Kumar Namasudhra & Akol Rani Namasudhra”.

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“She has clearly been able to establish the fact of presence on Indian soil as well as in the State of Assam, relatable to a period prior to 01.01.1966 in accordance with law,” Deb said.

Citizenship is a contentious subject in Assam with local groups alleging that “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh have swamped the state. Several agitations by these groups finally led the Supreme Court to order an update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to identify “foreigners”.

The updated NRC was published in August 2019, leaving out 19 lakh people. In the same year, the BJP-led Centre amended the country’s citizenship act, much to the consternation of several Assamese who fear that the grant of citizenship rights to “outsiders” would change the essential nature of the state. The Act, however, has widespread support in the Bengali-speaking Barak Valley in which Cachar district falls.

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