Silchar: The last detainee at the Foreigners’ Detention Centre inside Assam’s Silchar Central Jail was released on Saturday after getting bail from the high court. Manindra Das, 67, from Katigorah area of Cachar district, is the 67th detained “doubtful citizen”, also referred to as D-voter, to be released on bail from the centre since June 2018.
Chandradhar Das, 102, was the first D-voter in Assam’s Barak Valley to get bail on medical grounds. Only a few self-declared foreigners, including nationals of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and some African countries are now lodged at the detention centre.
Manindra Das, who received a notice from a Foreigners Tribunal in 2015 to prove his identity, appeared before it several times but his lawyer died during the process, and he missed some hearings. The court issued his ex parte detention order on May 8, 2019.
“We are Indians. We love this land like any other citizen of this country. But now people will look at me in a different way… This entire process is humiliating but I am not going to blame anybody. This was our destiny and I had to face this,” a teary-eyed Manindra Das said after his release.
Apart from Silchar, there are five other detention centres in Assam where at least 19 people declared as D-voters are under detention, officials said.
The Supreme Court cited the Covid-19 pandemic last year and ordered the release of all the inmates at detention centres, who have stayed there for over two years. The basic criteria for applying for bail earlier was a minimum of three-year detention.
Satyendra Baisya, in charge of Silchar Central Jail, said they have had two kinds of detainees, including self-declared foreigners. “…we have deported many of them. The other kind of detainees is doubtful citizens who have cases pending in tribunals.”
Baisya said D-voters have often been arrested for missing hearings of tribunals. “Last year, many of them tested positive for coronavirus, and fortunately this year, we have managed to protect them.”
After 2019, there have been no new detentions at the Silchar centre.
The last wish of Chandradhar Das, who passed away in December, to die as an Indian remained unfulfilled, his family said. Despite having valid documents, he failed to prove his identity in a tribunal as an Indian. He was arrested in 2018. The hearings in his case were delayed in the absence of a government lawyer.
His daughter, Niyoti Roy said, “My father was a strong man. He wanted to die as an Indian, but we could not fulfill his last wish. My mother considers Narendra Modi as her God. She says Modi heard her prayers and sent food and medicine during the lockdown. We have voted for Modi’s candidate this year again. My father had the same faith and admiration but in his last days, he faced humiliation without any reason. We are afraid that this can happen to us as well.”
Over 20,00,00 people in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley have been left out of the National Register of Citizens as part of a process to identify and deport undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.
Rickshaw puller Bhakta Das, 60, proved his identity in 2011 when a tribunal declared him an Indian citizen. But six years later, he got a notice from the same tribunal to prove his identity again.
“I do not have the financial strength to go to the high court. If the government believes I am not a citizen, they can shoot me and my wife. We have faced enough I cannot continue this unfair fight anymore.”