Gauhati: The family of 65-year-old Zubbar Ali, who was detained for the past three years, was left in absolute shock after he died due to ‘illness’ at the Tezpur detention camp in Assam’s Sonitpur district.
Hailing from Dhansiri Khuti, a nondescript village in Udalguri district, Ali was declared a foreigner through an ex-parte judgment by a Foreigner’s Tribunal in 2007.
Outraged by his “unexplained” death, Ali’s family initially refused to accept the body and instead asked authorities to send it to where they think the body belongs — if he really was a ‘foreigner’.
“He looked fine when I met him a week ago. I even spoke to the police a day before I received the news of his death. If they think he was a foreigner, they should have sent the body to where they believe he comes from. Why bury him here?” asked Ali’s wife Saimon Nesa.
Ali, who worked as a daily wage labourer, was sent to a detention centre in 2015 for 11 months and was kept at the Goalpara detention centre. He was later shifted to the Tezpur detention camp where he stayed for over two years till his death.
“Zubbar Ali was in detention at Tezpur Central Jail and died a normal death on October 4. His body was sent home for the last rites,” said Dilip Kumar Das, Udalguri Deputy Commissioner.
Hundreds of villagers, including student leaders from All Assam Muslim Students’ Union, All BTC Minority Student's Union (ABMSU) gathered after Ali’s death. Shouting slogans against the district administration, they supported the family’s decision to not accept the body of the deceased.
It was only after the intervention of the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Udalguri, Jatin Bora, who personally spoke to the family as well as the student leaders, that the body was received and later laid to rest.
Sources close to the family said that his name was enlisted in the 1977 voter’s list and he had submitted the 1966 legacy data of his father Sotku Sheikh as proof of his citizenship. The family is said to have been living in Dhansiri Khuti for almost 25 years.
“We have lost everything. We could manage to pay the lawyer Rs 18,000 of the Rs 25,000 he demanded to fight my husband’s case. One of my sons has also been tagged a D-Voter,” said Saimon, who often went to see her husband at the detention centre, but could only meet him from a distance.
The bereaved wife was oblivious of Ali’s ‘illness’. “He never told me that he was sick, or asked me for medicine,” she added.