NEW DELHI: After being in Golapada Central Jail suspected to be Bangladeshi for more than three years, Rehat Ali, an Assam villager returns home as ‘Indian.’
According to The Hindu newspaper reports, the quasi-judicial Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) doubted Ali’s citizenship due to the “discrepancy” in age.
A primary school dropout almost 60 years ago, Ali never noticed that his voter ID card showed him to be a 55-year-old, although he is 66 years old according to the age he orally submitted to the Tribunal in the year 2015 and thus become a key to doubt his citizenship.
Also in many different documents, his name was recorded variously as ‘Rehat Ali’ and ‘Rehaja Ali’ as he does not even remember the date when his father Muniruddin had shifted to Nalbari district due to the erosion of the river Brahmaputra the village was facing.
Recalling the life in captivity, Ali said, “But it is better to be dead than live there like a laash [corpse],” adding it also taught him to count his days unlike four other inmates, who died of depression during his stay. “How can I forget the number of days I was deemed a Bangladeshi? They killed the Indian in me every day for 1,197 days before I walked to freedom,” he said.
Ali is more sad than happy because his wife is barely able to recognize him as she went into delirium soon after he was taken away. He said that his children never told him that they had pledged their land sold their cows and a commercial vehicle to spend seven lakh rupees for fighting the case.
“My sons never told me they had to mortgage our land, sell eight cows and a commercial vehicle to spend ₹7 lakh for my case,” he said, his voice tinged with grief.
Ali hopes that by July 31, the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), will be finalized, which will eliminate the ‘Bangladeshi tag’ on many people of Assam.
“My NRC application was put on hold. I hope it is not too late for me, an Indian-turned-Bangladeshi-turned-Indian, to be included,” he wryly observed.