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By A Newsman

Silchar, 30 August: NOTWITHSTANDING Union government’s recent move to amend the Citizenship Act for granting citizenship to religious minorities coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, there is no let-up in Bengalis in Assam being branded as foreigners!

In a latest case, a 50-year-old Bengali farmer from Lalachara forest village in Hailakandi district in Barak Valley has been identified as “foreigner” and has been sent to the Detention Camp in Silchar.

The Foreigners Tribunal Bench at Hailakandi declared the farmer Jyoti Roy a “foreigner” in an ex-parte order passed recently and asked the police to arrest him. Roy was picked up from his house by police on 28 August evening and was subsequently sent to the Detention Camp housed in the Silchar Central Correctional Home yesterday (29 August).

This is even as the poor illiterate farmer told police that he originally hailed from Maniarkhal under Dholai Assembly constituency in Cachar district and had moved to Lalachara about four decades ago in search of better livelihood. He has been living at Lalachara with wife and three children. Besides, his younger brother is an employee of the Assam forest department.

Police on their part has maintained that Roy had been served notices by the Foreigners Tribunal Bench to prove his nationality but he did not pay a heed to this. The family of the ill-fated farmer has contested the claim and his wife said that they never got any such notice.

The arrest of the farmer has once again brought to fore the constant harassment that is being meted to the Bengalis of Assam, wherein every now and then Bengalis are being served notices asking them to prove nationality or face deportation to Bangladesh.

This has also brought alive the memory of Bulu Sabdakar, another Bengali from Hailakandi, who was pronounced a foreigner in 2007 and was arrested and sent to the Silchar Detention Camp in 2010. Since then Sabdakar was lodged in the Detention Camp till his death due to tuberculosis on 17 March 2016.

All this is happening at a time when the Narendra Modi led Central government on 19 July tabled in Parliament an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 for granting citizenship to religious minority refugees who have come to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan on or before 31 December 2014, and have been staying year for at least seven years.

The amendment bill is now being examined by a Select Committee of the Parliament.

Prior to this, 07 September 2015, the Modi government had issued two Gazette notifications under the Passport (Entry to India) Act 1920 and the Foreigners Act 1946 allowing such religious minority from Bangladesh and Pakistan who had entered India on or before 31 December 2014.