On December 15, Hasina Bhanu was provided with a reprieve by the Gauhati High Court. The 55-year-old is one of the thousands across Assam whose nationality has been a matter of judicial deliberation. Her case is another instance where financially weak people have been pushed to penury in an attempt to prove their citizenship. 

The Gauhati High Court set aside an order by a foreigners’ tribunal in Darrang district, that declared a woman as a “foreigner” without specifying the period she was alleged to have come to India.

The court observed that non-mentioning of the period of entry by the tribunal ‘was fatal’ and therefore must be reconsidered.

“We are of the view that non-mentioning of the period of entry by the alleged foreigner would be fatal for the reason that as provided under Section 6A(2) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, subject to the provisions of sub-sections (6) and (7), all those persons of Indian origin who came to Assam from the specified territory before January 1, 1966, and who have been ordinarily resident in Assam since the dates of their entry to Assam shall be deemed to be citizens of India as from January 1, 1966,” a bench, comprising Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Malasri Nandi, noted.

Bhanu, who had spent over two months in Tezpur detention camp, was relieved at the HC decision, but her battles are far from over. She has now demanded compensation from the Assam government for making her fight a legal battle and endure trauma to prove her citizenship despite being an Indian. Since 2016, Bhanu has been fighting for her identity.

Bhanu hails from Shyampur Village No-3 in Darrang district, 75 km from Guwahati. In 2016, a case was registered against Hasina Bhanu by the border police branch in the Shyampur police station.

She was first served notice by Mangaldoi’s FT-4. Bhanu submitted as many as 16 documents, including her Aadhar card, Pan card, ration card, her voter list record of 1989 and the 1966 records of her father’s and grandfather’s names in the voters’ list. In August 2016, the Tribunal declared she was not a “foreigner/illegal migrant of any stream,”, and that she was an “Indian by Birth.”

However, Bhanu’s battle for proving her citizenship did not stop there. The border police branch of Shyampur Police Station slapped another referral case of illegal migration from Bangladesh against Bhanu in 2017 in the same Foreigner’s Tribunal Court -1.

In March this year, during the second hearing of the case, Bhanu submitted as many as 17 documents. But this time, the tribunal found an issue with her “linkage documents.”

The court declared her a “foreigner of the post-1971 stream”. She was then detained on October 19 and sent to the Tezpur detention centre in the adjoining district of Sonitpur.

This time, Bhanu’s family filed a petition against the FT’s order in the Guwahati High Court. They contended that in August 2016, the same tribunal declared her an Indian national.

The Gauhati High Court, on December 15, set aside the tribunal’s 2021 decision and ordered the release of Hasina Bhanu from the detention camp.

“I want compensation from the government of Assam for draining me mentally. Now, I have become a beggar. My two children had to be pulled out from the schools, and now, work outside Assam as daily wage labourers to support the family. One could not sit for the matric examination. I lost my health as well. I urge the government to compensate for the trauma it made me go through for the past several years,” Hasina Bhanu told EastMojo after being released.

Her husband, Ayen Ali, had to sell and mortgage his farm to fight Bhanu’s case.

“My family is ruined, and the future of my children too. I had to sell my land to arrange for money to fight the case. I demand the government to compensate us for the loss,’ he told EastMojo

These days, Bhanu’s two sons work outside the state as daily wage labourers to support the family.

Also read: WATCH: Mon Massacre, through the eyes of Oting

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