The Foreigners Tribunal bench of the Gauhati High Court has rejected the citizenship plea of a Muslim woman, upholding the order of a tribunal, despite testimony from her mother. This comes days after it declared another Muslim woman – 50-year-old Jabeda Begum – a foreigner despite the submission of 15 documents, including bank papers and a PAN card.
Nur Begum, a resident of Assam’s Golaghat district who is currently lodged in a detention centre in Jorhat District Jail, filed a petition with the High Court challenging a Foreigners Tribunal order last year in which she was declared a non-Indian.
Nur Begum belongs to the Jolha community, an indigenous Muslim community that works in the tea gardens. She did not make it to the NRC (national register of citizens) list that was rolled out in Assam last year and excluded over 19 lakh people.
In an order passed on February 18, the court said testimony by Nur Begum’s mother could not be used to establish her citizenship.
Jahurun Begum, the mother, had also testified before the tribunal.
“Statement of Jahurun Begum (DW-2), who claimed to be the mother of the petitioner, cannot be relied upon in absence of documents showing her relationship, either to the projected grandfather, father or to the petitioner herself. Oral testimony of DW-2 alone, sans any documentary support, cannot be treated as sufficient to prove linkage or help the cause of the petitioner,” the court said.
Nur Begum had also submitted certificates to prove she belonged to the Jolha community and was not a Miya, or a Bengali Muslim of Bangladeshi migrant origin.
The Assam government has recently announced an ambitious head count of indigenous Muslims – to form a separate development council for them and to “separate” them from Bengali-speaking Muslims of Bangladeshi origin.
Unfortunately, indigenous Muslims Nur Begum have been caught in that net and have either been declared “foreigners” or are fighting expensive and long-drawn out cases at tribunals and in courts.
In Nur Begum’s case the court said “all certificates rendered itself as inadmissible in evidence, inasmuch as authors were not examined to prove certificates and contents thereof”.
Nur Begum had submitted eight documents, including a voters’ list from 1966 bearing her grandfather’s name. To establish that relationship, she also submitted three other documents – a Class IX certificate from a provincial school, a Gaon Burah (village headman) certificate and a caste certificate.
Each had her father’s name, Raju Hussain alias Rajen Ali.
In a recent order the same bench of the High Court said school certificates would be admissible only after testimony from the issuing authority.
Meanwhile, in another case, the court also upheld a tribunal order declaring a third Muslim woman – Sahera Khatun – a foreigner. She had been declared so on December 1, 2018, under the post-1971 stream as per the Assam Accord.
To prove links to ancestors prior to the cut-off date of March 24, 1971, she produced 12 documents, including a school certificate and copies of seven voters’ lists, including one from 2017. The lists contained the names of grandparents, parents and siblings.
However, the court observed that only documents showing the required familial links were school and Gaon Burah certificates, and none of these were testified by issuing authorities.
These documents, though, were in the list of admissible documents for the NRC (national register of citizens) in Assam to establish links with forefathers.