Be Fair: SC to NRC Coordinator After Ex-Soldier Declared Foreigner

Md Sanaullah, an army veteran, is being held at the Goalpara detention centre after he was declared a ‘foreigner’.

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India
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Md Sanaullah, an army veteran, is being held at the Goalpara detention centre in Assam after he was declared a ‘foreigner’.
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Citing “disturbing media reports” on an ex-soldier being declared as a foreigner during the implementation of National Citizenship Register, the Supreme Court, on Thursday 30 May, came down heavily on the NRC coordinator asking him to be fair.

The Chief Justice of India told the NRC coordinator “Don't cut short the process just because you have to meet the deadline of 31 July.”

Mohammed Sanaullah, a retired honorary Lieutenant of the Indian Army, was detained by the Assam Police on Wednesday after the Boko Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) declared him a ‘foreigner’, blatantly disregarding his over three-decade-long service with the armed forces.

He joins a growing list of defence veterans in Assam, who have had to face humiliation and prosecution after being left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft.

Fifty-one-year-old Sanaullah, a decorated soldier, had participated in several counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and then later in Manipur. He had also fought in the Kargil war, several media portals reported.

In 2014, he was commissioned as a Junior Commission Officer by the President of India.

Post retirement, he had joined the Assam Border Police as a sub-inspector, the same force that ordered his arrest post the FT’s declaration.

Upen Mohan, Officer-in-Charge North Guwahati, confirmed that Sanaullah had been detained at the Amingaon police station overnight.

He was transferred to the Goalpara detention centre in the morning, police sources told The Quint.

Lawyer Aman Wadud, whose firm is in the process of filing a writ petition before the Guwahati High Court against the detention, told The Quint that Sanaullah, a resident of the Kolohikas village in Kamrup district, had gone to the Amingaon station on his own volition after he was informed of the FT’s declaration.

He also said that the Border Police had accused him of being a ‘foreigner’ without a proper investigation. “In the verification report filed by the police, they had written that Sanaullah was a labourer.”

Be Fair: SC to NRC Coordinator After Ex-Soldier Declared Foreigner
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
Wadud pointed to another peculiarity in the report, where the fact that Sanaullah had not registered in the 1986 voters’ list is stated as a justification of his declaration as a foreigner.

“They claim that since he was 20 years of age in 1986, the fact that he did not register to vote is proof that he is not an Indian citizen. They, however, overlook the fact that the 61st Constitutional Amendment, lowering the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, was passed in March 1989,” he said.

Legally Bound to Detain All ‘Foreigners’: Police

Amingaon Additional SP Sanjib Saikia, meanwhile, said that Sanaullah was detained in accordance with the instructions of the court.

“The thing to understand here is that no one is declared a ‘foreigner’ overnight. The FT did so after due diligence and Sanaullah was required to produce documents to prove otherwise. The police detained him as we were legally bound to do so by the court,” Saikia told The Quint.

On being asked about Sanaullah’s whereabouts and the recourse available to him, Saikia said: “Currently, he is being held at the Goalpara detention centre. He can raise the issue with a higher court to get relief.”

‘This is Harassment’

Retired army officer Mohammed Azmal Haq, a relative of Sanaullah, said that the entire ordeal was a conspiracy hatched by some Border Police personnel.

“They submitted false information about him that he was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and also that he doesn't know how to read and works as a labourer," he told ANI.

Last year, Sanaullah and his family’s name had been ‘put on hold’ in the NRC draft because of the Boko FT case pending against him.

Speaking to News 18, the veteran had said: “I was told that there’s a pending case against me at the Foreigner’s Tribunal in Boko. I tried to trace the case at the office of the superintendent of police (border), Kamrup Rural, the Foreigners’ Tribunal in Ulubari as well as in Boko, and finally found out from the Boko FT that the case cited concerns about somebody named Md Samsul Hoque of Agchiya Village, Boko. I don’t even know who he is. It’s so misleading,” said Sanaullah.

“This is harassment of indigenous people. No one in my family has made it to the list. It’s all manipulated. After serving the nation for so many years, this is what I get?” Sanaullah added.

(With inputs from Anjana Dutta, News18, NewsCentral24x7)

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