Family of 'Declared Foreigner' Refuse to Claim Body Unless He Is Pronounced 'Indian'

Dulal Pal had spent two years in a detention camp after a special tribunal had declared him a 'foreigner'. He passed away six days ago.

New Delhi: The family of a ‘declared foreigner’, who passed away at a Guwahati hospital six days ago, has continued to refuse to claim his body for cremation.

Local news reports quoted Ashish Pal, the eldest son of the late 65-year-old Dulal Pal, as having said the state government should declare him an Indian before they hand over his body. Ashish has said the body should otherwise be sent to Bangladesh

A resident of Alisinga village in the state’s Sontipur district, Ashish told reporters that his father was declared a foreigner in spite of owning land in India since the 1960s. 

Dulal, who according to his family was “mentally ill,” was in the Sonitpur detention camp after he was declared a foreigner by a special tribunal in 2017.

On September 28, when his health reportedly deteriorated, Dulal was admitted to the government-run Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, about 130 kms away from Alisinga village situated near the district’s Dhekiajuli town.

On October 13, he died of diabetes and renal failure.

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

Ashish said the family had sold a portion of their land to fight the legal battle for his release. “We are poor and yet we spent Rs. 1.5 lakh on my father’s case. He was suffering from mental illness and also developed diabetes later. We tried everything we could to get him out,” he told Times of India

Joining the family and locals, the All Assam Bengali Youth Students Federation, along with local units of the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Yuva Parishad, blocked the National Highway 15 for a few hours demanding that the government declare Dulal an Indian. 

According to a news report by InsideNE on October 17, Dulal’s body has continued to remain unclaimed at the hospital morgue. 

Dulal is the 24th ‘declared foreigner’ to have died in detention since 2016. According to data supplied by senior state minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the state assembly this July. Glaringly, until 2011, only one ‘illegal foreigner’ had died in detention. 

Assam has six detention centres within district jails where nearly 1,100 ‘declared foreigners’ have been housed. In response to the Supreme Court’s recent order to release those who have already spent three years in detention, the government has set free 10 of them so far.