New detention centre under construction in Goalpara. All state governments were instructed in 2014 to set up such centres. Photo: Tridip K. Mandal
East Wind Correspondent
On 2nd November 2018, the Supreme Court of India had directed the state of Assam to complete the process of reuniting separated families in detention centres within a period of 10 days. There were at the time 47 declared foreign nationals who were supposed to be transferred for the purpose of being reunited. Studio Nilima, an organisation that calls itself a “collaborative network for research and capacity building”, has pointed out in a letter to the Commissioner and Secretary of Assam’s Home and Political Department that more than a year and a half since that SC direction, two minor male children of declared foreigners are being held along with their fathers in the District Jail in Goalpara while the respective mothers are in the District Jail in Kokrajhar.
“It is important to note that the case has been notified by the respective District Services Legal Authority to the Deputy Commissioner, Goalpara. However, no steps have been taken till date to ensure that the children and their respective families are reunited”, the letter from Studio Nilima president advocate Nilay Dutta says. Calling the current state of detention of the children away from their mothers a flagrant violation of the Supreme Court order, Dutta has pointed out that “till the prevailing situation continues, the State of Assam will lie in contempt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India”.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had informed the Rajya Sabha last year that as of November 22, 2019, there were 988 declared foreigners lodged in six detention centres in Assam. They had been sent there by various Foreigners’ Tribunals operating in the state of Assam. However, multiple credible reports have surfaced in the media of Indians being sent to languish in those detention centres. Cases that made headlines included that of retired Indian Army soldier Mohammad Sanaullah, who was declared a foreigner in his absence at a time when he was on duty for the army.