Days after the death of an alleged “mentally unstable” man at an Assam detention camp for illegal foreigners, his family is yet to accept his body.
However, Paul’s relatives said the body of an “illegal foreigner from Bangladesh” should be sent to that country and not be handed over to his family here.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the deceased’s nephew Sadhan Paul said, “Policemen had come today (Tuesday) to get a form signed by us as a part of the formality of handing over the body. The form described that Dulal was a ‘declared foreigner’ and left the information regarding his residence empty. I said that they should fill the information regarding his address first… Ideally, they should send the body of an ‘illegal Bangladeshi’ to Bangladesh. Why are they coming to us?”
Assam Congress president Ripun Bora, who met with the family on Tuesday, said, “The family and neighbours have refused to accept the body with the allegation of him being a ‘foreigner’. Locals have asked that if Dulal Paul was a foreigner, then why is the government trying to hand over the body to Indian citizens of his family rather then sending it to the other country? Locals said the family will accept the body only if Dulal Paul is declared an Indian citizen.”
The stance taken by Paul’s family has left the authorities in a fix. Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Manvendra Pratap Singh told The Indian Express, “Yes, it’s true that the family is not accepting the body. We are trying our best to convince them — my officials are meeting them to request them. But they have simply denied to accept the body.”
He added, “The family is saying that he should first be declared an Indian citizen and only then they will accept the body. But that is not in my hands since he was declared a ‘foreigner’ by a Foreigners’ Tribunal.”
Singh also said that it is “not easy” for the administration to conduct the cremation on its own. “He is not an Indian citizen. I cannot just authorize the cremation. The family has to accept him.”
Currently, Assam has six detention centres but they are housed in district jails, and altogether they hold around 1,000 people. A seventh centre, exclusively for detaining “illegal foreigners”, is under construction at Matia in Goalpara district.
According to government data, 24 persons declared as “illegal foreigners” by Assam’s Foreigners’ Tribunals and lodged in detention camps have died over the last three years.