NAGAON: Having lived in India for over 40 years, a paralytic Muslim man in Assam faces the grim prospect of deportation after his name was dropped from the National Register of Citizens Additional Exclusion List published last month even after it was included in the NRC draft, his family has claimed.
The Supreme Court, however, rekindled hope in Azizul Haque's family after it issued notices to the Centre and the Assam government last Wednesday on an appeal filed by him.
Haque, a resident of Singi Pathar village in Nagaon district, was declared a foreigner by Foreigners Tribunal on June 6, 2011 when he failed to appear before it for the hearing of a case against him as he did not receive the summons.
The quasi-judicial body passed the order ex-parte (without hearing both parties in a dispute) following his non-appearance, according to his brother Nazirul Islam.
Haque, born in 1978, was marked as a D (doubtful) voter in 1997 following which a case was filed against him with the Tribunal, Islam said, adding, the names of both their parents are in the voters list with his father Abdur Rahman enrolled in 1965 and mother Anufa Begum in 1971.
On March 24, 2017, police apprehended Haque from a place in Nagaon district and took him to a detention camp at Tezpur in Sonitpur district where he is living ever since, according to official records.
In 2018, he appealed before another Foreigners' Tribunal in Jhuria seeking annulment of the ex-parte judgement but failed to get any relief.
He moved the Gauhati High court the same year but it rejected his prayer, holding that he may have been sick as was certified by a doctor but he ought to have had made arrangements for appropriate representation before the Tribunal, Islam said.
Haque then moved the apex court in appeal and it issued notices to the Assam and the Union governments.
Haque submitted before the Supreme Court that the only ground on which he was being stripped of Indian citizenship was his inability to depute a person to appear before the Foreigners Tribunal in his stead after he suffered lower limb paralysis and was in no position to present himself.
His family hopes that he will get justice from the Supreme Court as the names of all its other members are still in the draft NRC.
Haque's name was included in the draft NRC after he submitted as legacy data his grand father Tashan Ali's 1941 land documents.
"The Supreme Court is our last hope as everything else has failed," his wife Marzine Khatun told reporters.
Khatun, who has met Haque at the detention camp with their four-year-old son several times during the last two years, said her husband always broke down at the sight of the little boy and made desperate pleas to her to secure his release.
"Get me out of here," he would let out a cry of despair every time they met.
Villagers said they and some other well-wishers of the family contributed money to fund Haque's legal battle in the Gauhati High Court and the Supreme Court.
Several incidents of people, including Army and CISF personnel, being declared a foreigner or D-Voter by the Foreigners' Tribunals and being sent to detention camps on account of mistaken identity have been reported in Assam in the last few months.
Last week, a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawan Mamud Ali, hailing from Dalgaon in Boko Assembly constituency, was issued a D-Voter notice by a Tribunal in Kamrup district, compelling him to rush home from his place of posting in Bankura in West Bengal.
Earlier, a Kargil war veteran and Assam Border Police Sub-Inspector Md Sanaullah was picked up after a Tribunal declared him a foreigner in a case of mistaken identity and sent him to a detention camp in Goalpara district.
Following a writ petition and an interlocutory application filed by his family, Sanaullah was granted bail by the Gauhati High Court and released last month.
In a similar case of mistaken identity, a 59-year-old woman--Madhubala Mandal-- was wrongly apprehended over three years ago before she was released from a detention camp in Kokrajhar district, also in June.
Assam has about 100 Foreigners Tribunals which are quasi-judicial bodies that determine citizenship.
Those who fail to submit documents to prove their Indian citizenship are declared foreigners and sent to the six detention camps set up across the state before they are deported.
The purpose of the NRC, which is being updated in the state, is to identify bonafide Indian citizens from among the residents of Assam and to pinpoint illegal migrants who entered after the midnight of March 24, 1971.
Illegal migration, especially from Bangladesh, is a hugely sensitive and contentious issue in Assam.
The exercise began in 2013 following an order by the Supreme Court, which is also monitoring it.
However, it has often got embroiled in controversy following allegations of even genuine citizens being excluded.