Md Sanaullah, a resident of Assam, had joined the Indian Army on May 21, 1987. Twenty-one years later, Assam Police’s border branch, a special wing that deals with detection of “illegal” migrants in the state, investigated Sanaullah as a suspected foreigner.
The investigation includes a “confession” that he was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and left his country of “origin” for a “better living”.
While Sanaullah was taken to a detention centre for illegal migrants in Goalpara district on Wednesday evening, his family and lawyers on Thursday called the probe report “fictitious and fabricated”, and alleged that his thumb impression at the end of it was “forged”.
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Back in 2008, when the investigating officer from border police met Sanaullah, he reportedly “claimed to be (an) Indian without valid document”. The “Form I — Interrogation Report on Foreign National” mentioned Sanaullah’s “profession” as “labour”, and had “entered India through a secret route”.
The interrogation report by a sub-inspector of border branch — dated May 23, 2008 – cited an ostensible confession by Sanaullah. Part of it, in Assamese, states: “As per my knowledge I was born at village Kasimpur of Dhaka district in Bangladesh. I cannot remember the name of police station. I am an illiterate person, I have not cast (my) vote till date.”
Based on this probe report, a ‘reference’ was made against Sanaullah to FT in 2008. He received a notice to appear last year, and lost the case at the Tribunal on May 23 this year.
Sanaullah retired as a subedar with Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers of the Army in August 2017 after 30 years with the forces. In 2014, he was awarded the President’s Certificate for promotion to the rank of “Junior Commissioned Officer in Regular Army in the Rank of Naib Subedar”.
Post-retirement, Sanaullah joined the state police’s border wing as a sub-inspector in Kamrup (rural) district.
According to his ex-serviceman’s identity card, issued by the Army, Sanaullah’s pension amount was Rs 11,970.
Sanaullah’s written statement to the Tribunal during the case stated, “The inquiry officer neither visited the house nor served any notice to produce any document (to prove his nationality). The so-called inquiry report found in the case report is completely false and fabricated.”
Sanaullah submitted that on the date he was supposedly interrogated, he was “in active service in Counter Insurgency Area (OP HIFAZAT, Manipur)”.
While Sanaullah’s confession, as per the probe report, identified his children as Munni Begum, Mina Begum, and Md Sahit Ali, the family told The Indian Express that the three are named Sahnaz Akhtar, Halmina Akhtar and Shahid Akhtar.
Advocate Wadud said Sanaullah is not illiterate, and that his name is in voters’ list since 1989.
At the family’s home in Guwahati’s Satgaon area, Sanaullah’s wife Samina Begum, 46, said: “Before recruiting him, the Army and the Assam Police must have verified his details. Why did they not say anything on his citizenship then? Why all these allegations now? My husband and we are proud Indians – he has dedicated his life for the service of the nation.”
“A proud soldier”, Sanaullah did not want to sit idle after retirement from the Army, Samina said. “He wanted to serve his state and the country, (so) he applied for a job with Assam Police and got it.”
As a sub-inspector of border police, she pointed out, his job involved tracing absconding “declared foreigners”, and interrogating suspected illegal migrants, among other responsibilities.
Wadud said, “The Tribunal didn’t appreciate documents such as voters’ list (and Sanaullah’s name in it), educational certificate, his passport, his service documents, including President’s certificate, and depositions of his elder brother, present headmaster of the school where he studied. It (FT) very mechanically declared the petitioner a foreigner.”
Samina said, “The day the FT order came, he was very tense. He was puzzled but told me that his colleagues will help him.”
Sanaullah’s cousin Md Ajmal Hoque, a retired Army personnel, who was served a notice by FT in 2017, said, “When I spoke to him last on May 27, we discussed that we should get certified copies of all necessary documents to appeal against the order in HC. Next day, he was called by the police in Amingaon and was detained.”
Calls to Superintendent of Police, Kamrup (Rural), Partha Sarathi Mahanta, who also holds the post of SP (Border) of the district, went unanswered on Wednesday and Thursday.
Additional SP, Kamrup, Sanjib Saikia, had told The Indian Express on Wednesday that the police were only complying with the law in arresting Sanaullah, as the FT has declared him a foreigner.
A senior border police officer said on Thursday, “It’s the law. We discharged him from service on Wednesday since he has been declared a foreigner by FT. During police recruitment he had to declare whether he is an Indian citizen, and he did that — but he concealed the fact that a case was pending against him. We learnt through verification that a case was pending, and we had to wait for the (FT) order before taking any step.”
A source in the Army said, “All help will be provided to the retired JCO in terms of documents and any other material held with the Army. But as official process has been initiated, he will have to seek legal remedies.”
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