Kolkata: The family members of Asgar Ali, who has been in captivity since July 14, 2017 at a detention centre in Assam's Goalpara, have threatened to go on hunger strike if their son wasn't released after the completion of his detention tenure.
Fifty-four-year-old Asgar Ali was left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and sen to a detention camp. The family decided to go on a strike after Ali told his Zishan (who went to meet him at the detention camp on February 15) that there are other inmates who have already completed their three years at Goalpara detention camp but they were not released due to 'documentation' wrangling.
The allegation has come at a time when five FIRs have been filed against former coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Prateek Hajela, accusing him of allegedly tampering with NRC data and misappropriating funds.
According to a report, three of the FIRs have been filed by Assam Public Works (APW), the main petitioner of the NRC updation process. It claims that it will file a total of 22 FIRs against the official.
Speaking to News18, Zishan said, “One of the relatives of another inmate (who visited at Goalpara detention camp) called me last week and said that Asgar is extremely disturbed and his mental health condition is not good. I became worried and met him on February 15. I gave him some fruits and he told me that there are other inmates who were not released even after completing their three years term.”
He said, “He was looking extremely devastated. I felt that his mentally condition is not good. He wanted to hug me but it was not allowed there. He started crying inconsolably and asked me to get him out of the place. He asked me to perform the last rites of his ailing mother Zubaida Begum and father Mohammad Jarif - if he was not released. I assured him that he will be released and their nothing to worry. Our only hope is Supreme Court order which says - anyone detained for more than three years at any detention centre in Assam will be released. If he was not released than I along with Asgar’s family members will sit on hunger strike.”
“How can it be possible that only one member of the family was termed as foreigner while rest are Indians? Don’t you think there is a serious lapse in the system? What stopping the concerned authorities to go for Asgar’s DNA test? Things will be clear after that whether he is an Indian or foreigner. If they are doubtful about his citizenship, then let them go for his DNA test.”
Asgar’s family members in Kolkata’s Ghulam Rasool Masjid Lane near Lohapool in Park Circus area are praying for his release.
Asgar was put behind bars on July 14, 2017 (at Goalpara detention centre, which is nearly 150 KM from Guwahati in Assam) and as per the apex court’s order he is expected to release from the detention camp on July 14, 2020.
In 80s – Asgar went to Guwahati from Kolkata to work as a carpenter. Over the years, he worked hard and set up a sofa repairing and manufacturing unit in Islampur area in Guwahati.
In 2005, his nephew Zishan Ali lost his father and he decided to move to Guwahati to work with his uncle Asgar.
Their dream to come out of acute financial crisis (to bear the expenses of his two brothers and four sisters) was shattered after Asgar received a phone call in 2014 from Assam police. Then, Asgar and Zishan both came to Kolkata to attend a marriage ceremony.
Asgar became scared and when he went back to Guwahati he was told that he is a ‘doubtful voter’. Asgar fought the case legally but he gave up before the system and on July 14, 2017, he was sent to the detention camp after Assam’s Foreigners’ Tribunal deemed him as foreigner.
Zishan who stays in Guwahati’s Islampur and frequently meets Asgar in Goalpara detention centre. “I had a word with lawyer Aman Wadud sir who is helping us in this case. He asked me not to worry as everything will be alright,” Zishan said.
When asked what was the main reason behind Asgar’s detention, Zishan (in a recent conversation with News18) had said, “We have presented all the documents of Asgar, his family members including his father and mother. But our documentations were rejected by the court. Later, we came to know that Asgar’s father previous name was Sheikh Moral but later he changed his name to Mohammad Jarif. We have also presented his name change affidavit before the court. But it was not entertained as the court observed that we failed to provide any documents which will say that Mohammad Jarif and Sheikh Moral is one and the same person.”
“Then we have presented Asgar’s father voter ID card which was issued in 1966. Then, the court observed that the electoral roll of 1966 was issued by one Subodh Chandra Das, Assistant Director, Director of State Archives, Higher Education Department in Bengal. Asgar’s father’s voter ID card was also not entertained by the court by observing that the Director of State Archives cannot be the custodian of electoral roll (only custodian is Electoral Registration Officer) of assembly constituencies in West Bengal,” he had said.
Asgar’s brother Arshad, a women's bag maker, said, “Not only Zishan, we all will sit for hunger strike. My mother and father are crying everyday for his release. Both are not well and worried about Asgar. Sir, actually we became the victim of illiteracy. Till Asgar’s detention, we were not even aware that our house false under South 24-Parganas district and not Kolkata.”