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Muslim women’s plight in Assam – 48 lakh facing arrest, deportation to Bangladesh

By Mumtaz Alam Rizwi (ViewsHeadlines)

BJP, with the aid of media, is very active in raising some issues and suppressing others. While triple talaq became a hot topic and a means for BJP to shed crocodile tears for Muslim women, BJP is conveniently using media to erase old memories and creating a narrative that helps the saffron party stick to power.

48 lakh Mslim women may be declared Bangladeshi in Assam

So, any breach of justice and human rights is newsworthy and needs to be brought before public eye. Like the government’s movement to render homeless the 48 lakh Muslim women of Assam. This is a bigger aggrieved party, if facts are put straight. The citizenship of these women is being questioned and the scary sword of deportation to Bangladesh is hanging over their heads.

Questioning the citizenship of 48 lakh Muslim women

The matter of citizenship of 48 lakh Muslim women in Assam is currently being heard by Supreme Court, just like triple talaq issue. Ironically, this has slipped past the glare of media while it is concentrating on Muslim divorcees.

That the media can overlook a matter of such gravity defies logic and common sense. The sinister silence over this enormous matter is fishy and reeks of conspiracy and dirty politics.

The over-concentration on triple talaq issue points to the fact that there is a skeleton in BJP’s closet that it is trying to hide by shifting attention on triple talaq. A two-day first-hand experience in the Kokrajhar Jail in Assam to uncover the issue was taken up by us. The correspondent met with and talked to female inmates of Kokrajhar Jail, Assam. The correspondent also met with Rasminara Begum, an inmate who recently gave birth to a baby girl within the jail.

Rasminara Begum and her newborn

Jamiat Ulama Assam Chief Raqeebulhaseen helped the author in meeting the concerned people. An escort group that included Anwar Haseen and Sajid Khan took the correspondent to the Roop Nath Brahma Civil Hospital. The group was accompanied by Gwalpada MLA Rasheed Ahmad and his associates. The people met with Rasminara Begum in the hospital, where she is admitted with her newborn girl. The group met with the rest of the inmates in jail.

Rasminara, along with many other Muslim women, were jailed five months ago. They are accused of being Bangladeshis.

Rasminara and her plight

On seeing the group of visitors, Rasminara’s mother and husband broke into tears. Rasmin and her mother and husband cannot speak Hindi or Urdu, they only speak Assami. In broken words they explained the hardships they are made to face.

Rasminara hails from Krishnai village of Gwalpada, Assam. Her husband is from Lakhipur village, which is about a kilometer from Krishnai. It is about 200 km from Kokrajhar. Rasminara informed that her grandfather was a known freedom fighter and her father’s name is registered in the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC). Even after these facts her citizenship is being questioned and she has been jailed for the last five months on charges that she is a Bangladeshi.

The crime of Rasminara still remains unclear.

But this is how it goes. She is a Muslim. She married in another village, and not her own. And her name was mistakenly spelled differently in class 6 and class 9. These are the reasons she is being held in jail as a Bangladeshi. The cries of Rasminara and her mother that they are Indians and their ancestors have even helped in the freedom struggle are not heard by the government. They have been begging the current BJP government of Assam not to destroy their home. But their pleas are falling on deaf ears. Two elder daughters of Rasminara, Renuka Yasmin and Rukhsana Yasmin, live with their maternal grandmother because their mother has been jailed. They miss their mother and often weep.

The case of Rasminara and lakhs of other women in similar plight is being represented by Jamiatul Ulama, Assam and Maulana Arshad Madani has managed to take the matter up to Supreme Court. Supreme Court is currently hearing the matter. Now it remains to be seen if Rasminara will again be jailed after she is discharged from the hospital, or get to live with her family again.

Elder brother throws light on their plight

Rasminara’s elder brother Zakir Haseen threw more light on the blood curdling history of their suffering. During the narration of their suffering, words frequently melted into tears. Zakir Haseen was ready with all the documents that prove that the family had been residents of Assam, India for hundreds of years. He held up the voter I card of Rasminara, school certificates, the names of their parents in NRC, it was all there in display, in the hope that the government would see and bring an end to their plight.

But she was married off in another village, and this voided her citizenship. This voiding of citizenship because a girl is married off in another village is a case unique to Assam. ZAKIR Haseen even pointed out that in Assam the school certificates of classes till 9 hold no legal weight but Rasminara is jailed because the spellings of her class 4 and class 9 certificates do not match. And errors like this are very common.

But the government has chosen to make it the basis of their accusation. Another point that Zakir Haseen brought to the fore was that when a girl is married in another village, the panchayat head of her new village issues a certificate, on the basis of which a new voter ID card is issued to the newlywed girl, which mentions her change of address. But now the Assam government does not recognise the certificate issued by the village panchayat. This has endangered the citizenship of lakhs of village girls who have been married outside their village.

This case, along with lakhs of other girls in similar plight, are being taken u by and fought by the Assam branch of Jamiat Ulama Hind. Zakir Haseen was assured by Maulana Arshad Madani and Rasheed Alam that justice would be theirs soon.

Social worker Lutfurrahman’s candid words

A social worker, Lutfurranham also accompanied the people visiting Rasminara. He also shed light on what goes on unnoticed by the rest of the world.

He said, “This is a conspiracy by the current BJP government. They have a problem with the population of Muslims in India. They keep looking for ways to reduce Muslim population in the country. Efforts were made to kill Muslims in riots, but even that wasn’t very successful. So now they are trying to get rid of a big mass of Muslim population by declaring them as Bangladeshis. The BJP government is perplexed at the fast growing Muslim population. The truth is that Muslim Assamese girls become grandmothers by the age of 30-35. Illiteracy also plays a big part in non-family planning among these families. But saying that so many people have suddenly arrived from Bangladesh is preposterous. These are all Assamese. These are all Indians. They have not come from anywhere else.”

Conspiracy to make Assam Muslim-free

Congress party General Secretary of Assam was also among those on this tour.

He stated, “BJP wants a Muslim-free Assam. It tries various methods to get rid of Muslims from Assam. It is even ready to call such people Bangladeshis who have authentic receipts of NRC from 1951. The houses of Muslims are being demolished, the residents are being tortured. Various tricks are applied to make them unemployed. The women of Muslim freedom fighters are put behind bars. Our deputy leader Rafeequlhaseen, Chief of Jamiatul Ulama Hind Maulana Arshad Madani all are here to brainstorm on ways to find a solution to this problem. We are even fighting a case in Supreme Court about this.”

He further added, “We also met with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee. He was informed that there is no case against those jailed. If there are any Bangladeshis then they should be sent back but the Indians should not be harassed just because they are Muslims. This sends a very wrong message and people all across the district are terrorised and full of fear.”

Harassed by Court and legal troubles, woman commits suicide

The villagers of Assam are hardly aware of their rights, leave alone be aware of the basics of legal processes and how police stations work. They are mortally scared of legal troubles and policemen because of illiteracy and lack of knowledge and guidance. But these days these very people are made to run around courts and police stations.

Initially the villagers had ignored court notices because they were unaware what the white papers contained. But when warrants were issued against them and policemen came knocking at their doors, they were scared and very worried. After slogging in the fields for the whole day they could not figure out how to manage their the legal fight. They had to work for their immediate meals, or they would starve.

In Bogai village, Assam, a woman committed suicide. She made a noose from her sari and hung herself. She could not bear to be called a Bangladeshi and the travails that such an accusation accompanies. She was tired of running to courts.

Locals informed that this suicide was not a new case and the allegation of being a Bangladeshi has led many a resident to an early grave. There are no official records of such suicides. But again, there are no official records of the injustice the lakhs of women here are facing.

Assam authorities accused of not sending notice

Gwalpada MLA AK Rasheed Alam said, “The saddest part of the story is that the notices that the courts are issuing are not being delivered to the villagers responsibly. And then the court thinks that people are not appearing when called. The next step is arrest. So the court issues warrants against these poor ignorant and unsuspecting people. People here think that when they have not committed any crime then why are they being arrested and why is there a court case against them? And then when they are being called foreigners then they are hit with the terrible reality of the situation.”

He added, “It is true that all Assamese are Indians. It is up to us to fight for them”



(This story has been translated from Urdu newspaper Inquilab and does not necessarily represent the’s views and opinions.) 

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