Retired Army Officer in Assam Put in 'Doubtful Citizen' Category

Authorities had earlier asked the family of Assam’s first speaker to prove their citizenship.

New Delhi: Mohammad Azmal Haque, a retired junior commissioned officer of the Indian army, has been served notice by the state authorities to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal to prove his Indian citizenship.

Under the direction of the Supreme Court, one hundred such tribunals have been hearing cases of people residing in the state who have been placed in the doubtful (D)-voter category by the state government. The state is presently witnessing an update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951, under the watch of the apex court, as per a clause of the Assam Accord, and is likely to ready a draft NRC by December this year.

By serving a notice to appear before a tribunal on October 13 with necessary papers to prove that he is not an undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, Haque has been placed in the D-voter category. This category was created by the Election Commission of India in the 1990s for disenfranchisement of those persons identified by the state government as doubter voters for alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials. Such persons are thereafter referred to the Tribunals for verification.

Speaking to local media, Haque, who retired from service in September last year after 30 years of service, claimed that as many as 40 people in his village Deuri Dunga in the state’s Kamrup district have been served such a notice along with him. In 2012, both he and his wife Mamtaj Begum were served such a notice too. Haque told reporters that he submitted all documents then and was declared an Indian citizen by a tribunal.

“It is the irresponsibility of the Kamrup district officials, like the superintendent of police, the circle officer, etc., that such notices have been served on random people. They send notices to people without checking whether there are enough reasons to doubt their citizenship. It is almost like throwing a stone in to a pond and declare any fish that it hits as a suspect case and then forward him to the Tribunal,” Haque told the Assamese channel Pratidin Time.

He said he missed the first date of appearing before the Tribunal on September 11 as he received the notice after that date and would now appear on October 13.

On October 1, following a Twitter post by his lawyer and activist Aman Wadud highlighting the issue, retired army official Major D.P. Singh tagged the Twitter handle of Eastern Command. The Eastern Command responded saying, “Necessary assistance will be provided to the veteran.” State director general of police Mukesh Sahay told reporters that his department “is also looking into the case.”

In March this year, 11 people, served such notices to appear before the Tribunal, were found to be descendants of the first deputy speaker of Assam, Moulavi Amiruddin. In June this year, news about Abu Taher Ahmed, a policeman serving in South Salmara station since 2008, served a notice to prove his citizenship, also did the rounds.