EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking their immediate intervention in the matter concerning the harassment faced by a Muslim family from Assam who was erroneously called “foreigners” and forced to spend a year-and-a-half in a detention camp.
Highlighting how the family was wronged, Sarma writes, “As a concerned citizen, I feel that this case typifies the kind of gross human rights violations that innocent citizens are being subjected to in the guise of enforcement of the Foreigners Act. In this case, not only there has been a violation of the fundamental rights of all the four members of the family but also a specific violation of the rights of the two minor children.” He goes on to ask, “No doubt the legal proceedings culminated thankfully in the family getting declared as “Indians” but who will compensate them for the loss of their freedoms, violation of their right to life (Article 21) and the trauma undergone by the two minor children?”
Recently, a Muslim family of four, held in a detention centre since June 2019 after being declared ‘illegal foreigners’ during the Assam National Register of Citizens exercise had been freed and granted citizenship after a foreigners tribunal found them as documented Indians in the re-trial. Mohammad Nur Hussain, 34, his wife Sahera Begum, 26, and their two minor children belong to Lawdong village in Assam’s Udalguri district.
Sarma has appealed to the NHRC to investigate into the matter, especially with respect to the conduct of officials involved in ascertaining the authenticity of the family’s citizenship. He asks, “Should the State’s investigating officers be exonerated in this case as it is their unwillingness to elicit documents from the family that led them into taking such a draconian measure?”
Sarma has also asked for compensation for the family and urged the NHRC to undertake investigations into similar cases in the state. “It is also perhaps time to revisit the Foreigners Act, amend the regressive provisions under which innocent citizens are detained and introduce more benign humanitarian safeguards,” he said.