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1-min read

Another 'Foreigner' Dies in Assam Detention Camp, Kin Allege Police Denied Financial Aid for Last Rites

Naresh Koch, 50, was a resident of Tinkonia Para in Goalpara district and according to his family members, had undergone a harrowing ordeal at the detention camp for two years since his arrest on March 7, 2018.

Karishma Hasnat | CNN-News18

Updated:January 5, 2020, 12:26 PM IST
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Another 'Foreigner' Dies in Assam Detention Camp, Kin Allege Police Denied Financial Aid for Last Rites
A new detention center being set up in Goalpara, Assam. (Image: News18)

Guwahati: Naresh Koch, an inmate of Goalpara detention centre in Assam, died of a ‘brief illness’ on Thursday, taking the death toll in the state’s camps to 29.

Koch, 50, was a resident of Tinkonia Para in Goalpara district and according to his family members, had undergone a harrowing ordeal at the detention camp for two years since his arrest on March 7, 2018, by the border police in Mornoi.

Koch was cleaning the toilet at the camp when he fell unconscious and was taken to the Goalpara civil hospital. In a week’s time, his condition worsened as he had been suffering from an illness since last year. He was then referred to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital where he passed away. “He was paralysed,” said Koch’s wife Jimi, alleging that Koch was framed as a ‘foreigner’ despite possessing all documents — including a refugee certificate to prove his citizenship.

“He came to Assam way back in 1964 from erstwhile East Pakistan. How could he be a foreigner?” questioned Jimi.

In an ex-parte order, a Foreigner’s Tribunal court in Goalpara had declared Koch a ‘foreigner’ in June 2017. Koch and his family were reportedly not aware of any charges or proceedings against him.

“We never knew of it; he was just whisked away by the police from the market. We were somehow managing to live — my husband was a daily wage labourer, and so is my son. He has been taking care of me since,” said Jimi.

Locals, meanwhile, alleged police tried to cover up the matter by asking authorities for a hasty cremation.

“The cops wanted me to conduct the cremation late at night. I refused and told them we will perform the rites only in the morning. They said they have orders from higher-ups to get the cremation done by night itself,” said Purna Chandra Banai, secretary at the Goalpara crematorium. He added that the family was denied financial help by the police for the last rites.

At present, about 1,000 people are held in six detention centres — located inside district jails — in Assam as illegal foreigners. In March 2018, around 250 inmates at the Goalpara Detention Centre staged an indefinite hunger strike protesting against the indifferent attitude of the government and the system that indicted them as ‘foreigners’.

(With inputs from Rinku Das)

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