New Delhi: The Indian Army’s Directorate of Sainik Welfare has offered to provide legal assistance to its retired subedar Mohammad Sanaullah, who was declared a foreigner by a special tribunal in Assam on May 23. Sanaullah, 52, has been lodged in the detention centre set within the Goalpara district jail since May 29, after he was taken into custody by the North Kamrup Police.
The news has caused a flutter across the state and elsewhere, leading the Assam unit of the directorate to contact Sanaullah’s family. According to local news reports, the directorate has approached the state police to meet Sanaullah at the detention centre, besides contacting two Gauhati high court lawyers to defend him in an appeal.
In a statement issued to the press, the head of the directorate said:
It appears that there is confusion on his identity and also the record held with the NRC. Therefore, the individual was guided by DSW, Assam, to approach the Honourable Gauhati High Court against the Tribunal order. In this connection, the undersigned (director, DSW) immediately contacted two good advocates and their help/assistance is being taken.
It added, “This office is in continuous touch with his family members for any assistance and legal support.”
However, the family had already approached another HC lawyer, Aman Wadud, on May 29, the day Sanaullah was summoned to the police station for failing to prove his Indian citizenship at the Foreigners’ Tribunal in Boko circle. He was thereafter arrested.
Wadud told The Wire, “We have filed a writ petition in the HC on June 1.” The petition has called his arrest and detention “arbitrary, perverse and illegal”.
The tribunal, aside from taking note of discrepancies in the age of Sanaullah, his mother and the youngest sister in the documents submitted to it and during his cross examination, also questioned absence of some of his family members’ names in certain electoral rolls. It also questioned a land document transferred to Sanaullah when he was a minor. It didn’t give much credence to the fact that he served the Army for 30 years before retiring in 2017. In April, after a police clearance report, he was also appointed as an assistant sub inspector by the state’s Border Police unit which keeps an eye out for suspected foreigners.
The tribunal, however, took note of the report filed by an investigating officer (IO) in the Boko police station in 2008 based on which an FIR was lodged against Sanaullah doubting his Indian citizenship. Though the IO claimed to have recorded his statement in person at his village, Kalahikas within the Boko circle, situated around 60 km from the state capital Guwahati, basic information such as his profession, names of children, height etc. didn’t match with Sanaullah. Though Sanaullah told the tribunal that the IO didn’t meet him and he was on a counter insurgency operation in Manipur on one of the dates the IO mentioned to have recorded his statement at his house, it overlooked those points.
Interestingly, on May 31, the IO, in an interview to a local news channel, categorically denied meeting Sanaullah. He told NewsLive that the man he recorded statement in 2008 was different from the man he saw on the TV reports. On asked whether he would be willing to make that statement in court if required, the IO, whose identity was not revealed by the news channel during the interview, said, “Yes, if I am called by the court, I will have to be present; I will be present.”
Following his arrest, as is the procedure, Sanaullah was discharged of his job at the Border Police unit this past June 1.