Samiran Nessa finally celebrated Eid ul-Zuha (Bakrid) as an Indian citizen at her home in Assam. She is an illiterate and unmarried woman who made a living by washing dishes at roadside eateries.
On August 17, she was declared an Indian and freed after years as a suspect of an illegal immigrant. She spent her last four months in a women’s detention camp for illegal foreigners.
In July last year, she was declared an illegal foreigner by a Foreigners Tribunal of Goalpara in her absence. Her case came up in the tribunal after she was marked as a Doubtful or D-voter in 2005.
Almost 3 months after she was detained, Registrar General of India released a final draft list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which excluded over 40 lakh people in the border state of Assam, sparking fears that many of them could be detained in such camps.
Her younger brother, Altaf Hussain (24), a labourer, visited her in the camp four days after she was detained. “I went to the camp by bus which took around 5-6 hours. We spoke for 15 minutes. Both of us broke down. We were scared,” said Hussain.
Recounting her time in the detention camp, Nessa said she met women detained for 8-9 years. And she cited the case of Halima Khatun who has been under detention since 2009.
“When I was coming out, the women said they were happy for me. They asked me to pray for them,” said Nessa.