NRC row: Was retired soldier declared 'foreigner' due to mix-up?
A few days ago, a retired soldier was declared a 'foreigner' by the Foreigners' Tribunal (FT). The peculiar case sparked a debate on fairness in the NRC process. Subsequently, the soldier was relieved of his duties in Assam police. And now, the officer who investigated him said the soldier could have been detained due to a "mix up". Here's what happened.
A bit about NRC and the Supreme Court's order
NRC which stands for National Register of Citizens was published in 1951 with an intention to weed out illegal immigrants from India. The list was first updated last year after ruling BJP pushed for it. The saffron party made NRC a poll issue in Northeastern states. Notably, the Supreme Court had ordered officials to update the final list by July 31, 2019.
Backstory: Soldier, who served in Army for 30-years, was arrested
With SC putting a deadline, residents of Northeastern states are rushing to prove they are Indians. Amid the confusion, former-soldier Mohammad Sanaulla was arrested and sent to a detention center. Sanaulla had served in the Army for 30 years and retired as an Honorary Captain in August 2017. Later, he took up a job at Assam Border police. Obviously, his arrest shocked his family.
"It is a case of mistaken identity"
After the case garnered media attention, the officer of Border Police, who investigated Sanaulla, said there must have been a mix-up. "The former Army man, Sanaulla, is not the person whom I investigated. It is a case of mistaken identity," said officer Chandramal Das. Strangely, the report, on the basis of which Sanaulla was arrested, said that he was a laborer.
Sanaulla is not the person I interrogated: Das
"The person whose statements I had recorded is not the Army veteran who was declared a foreigner and sent to the detention center. The person whom I interrogated, recorded statement and took the thumb impression was not defense personnel but a laborer," Das said.
After being declared foreigner, Sanaulla was ripped of other benefits
Though Das sort of explained what happened, it didn't give any respite to Sanaulla. The Army veteran, who served in Kargil war and participated in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, was discharged of his duties in Assam Border police on May 23. "[He] is deprived of all the facilities as government servant henceforth," read the order signed by Superintended of Police.
Have filed a petition in Gauhati High Court: Lawyer
"Since the Foreigners Tribunal declared him as a foreigner, the police discharged him as per the law. However, we filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court on Friday challenging the order passed by the tribunal," said his lawyer Sahidul Islam.
Meanwhile, Army said it 'can't do anything'
Speaking on the case, an Army officer said they understood the grief of Sanaulla's family. "We called his wife Samina Begum to our cantonment on Thursday to console her and assure her of our help whenever the need arises. [There] is little the Army can do at this juncture," the officer said. However, he added the Army would extend help in the legal procedure.