Assam: 'Declared Foreigner' Housed in Goalpara Detention Centre Dies

A tribunal, in 2018, had marked Naresh Koch a foreigner. Since March that year, he has been lodged in the detention centre.

New Delhi: A man housed in the Goalpara detention centre in Assam became the first ‘declared foreigner’ to die in captivity in 2020, reported The Hindu.

Naresh Koch was reportedly brought to the Guwahati Medical College Hospital in a critical condition 10 days ago and passed away on Friday. He was in his mid-fifties.

A tribunal, in 2018, had marked him a foreigner. Since March that year, he has been lodged in the detention centre.

Prime minister Narendra Modi had recently said there were no detention centres anywhere in the country. Senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi, had, in reply, called Modi a “liar” for saying that there is no detention camp and claimed that the BJP-led government at the Centre had sanctioned Rs 46 crore for one in Assam’s Goalpara district itself.

Also read: Explainer: What Do the MHA’s Changes to 1964 Foreigners Tribunals Order Mean?

Gogoi said the Congress government in Assam he had headed had set up detention camps in the state as per a Gauhati High Court order.

Koch belonged to the Koch-Rajbongshi community, which the paper reported had been lobbying for Scheduled Tribe status, along with five other indigenous communities in Assam.

While most declared foreigners are Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims, the paper cites data and quotes activists who say that a few from indigenous communities have been victims of the system.

“Data provided by the government in the Assembly in November 2019 said 25 declared foreigners died in the detention camps since 2009, when they were established. The government also said 335 such people having served three years in detention were set to be released conditionally, in deference to a Supreme Court order on May 10, 2019,” the report notes.

The National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam has brought to sharp perspective the uncertainty surrounding the citizenship of Assam’s population.