October 6, 2018 2:57:41 am
LODGED AT a detention camp for illegal foreigners in Assam since May this year, Dinesh Prajapati, 41, a Hindi-speaking man whose parents ostensibly came to the state from Uttar Pradesh, will be released and has to register before the office of the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) in Tinsukia within 30 days, the Gauhati High Court has ruled.
In 2003, Prajapati was declared a “foreigner” who had entered Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971. According to existing rules, he was asked to register himself at the FRRO within two months. He did not register, and was eventually put in Dibrugarh detention camp on May 15 this year.
According to Section 6A of Citizenship Act, 1955, a person from then East Pakistan who had entered Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971, the day Bangladesh gained independence, has to register himself/herself after being detected a foreigner. Once registered, the person would be disenfranchised for 10 years before becoming an Indian citizen.
Prajapati’s advocate, Syed Burhanur Rahman, said the High Court’s order means Prajapati will now be disenfranchised for 10 years from the date of his fresh registration, and he will be an Indian citizen and get voting rights only after that. Rahman said, “It is really unfortunate that due to certain loopholes several genuine Indian citizens are languishing in detention centres.”
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The order dated October 3 stated, “In the facts of this case and on consideration of materials on record we make a direction to the petitioner to appear before the office of the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer, Tinsukia, within a period of 30 days.” The court did not accept Prajapati’s plea that his ancestors were from UP, but allowed his release on the condition that he registers himself as a “foreigner” of the 1966-71 stream with the FRRO.
In 2003, Prajapati’s wife Tara was also declared a foreigner of the 1966-71 stream, and after being arrested with Prajapati was put in Jorhat detention camp, over 130 km away from where her husband was held. The couple’s case had snowballed into a major issue in the state, with organisations representing Hindi-speaking communities questioning how “Hindi-speaking people could be doubtful citizens of the country”.
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