92-yr-old Assam woman who didn’t attend Foreigners Tribunal declared Indian citizen
When she refused to attend the trials, police informed the family that she would be declared a foreigner in a one-sided judgment if she disobeyed the court and may also be sent to a detention center in Goalpara. The family approached a lawyer to deal with the matter but at one point the lawyer also refused to continue with the case.
Ninety-two-year-old Moyna Barmani was termed a D-Voter (doubtful voter) in 2007, and 11 years later (in 2018) notice was served to her from Foreigners Tribunal-8 of Dhubri.
Ninety-two-year-old Moyna Barmani, a resident of Assam’s Dhubri, received notices from the Foreigners Tribunal Court in 2018 challenging her Indian citizenship. But she resolutely refused to attend the trials because she felt that would hurt her dignity.
Earlier, her name appeared in the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC) and electoral roll of 1966. Based on the documents, FT-8 of Dhubri district declared her an Indian on January 11, this year.
She was termed a D-Voter (doubtful voter) in 2007, and 11 years later (in 2018) notice was served to her from FT-8 of Dhubri. She was asked to appear for the hearing of FT case no -8/489/GKJ/2018 in Dhubri. Her family members informed the administration that Moyna refused to attend the trials as she felt that it would hurt her dignity.
When she refused to attend the trials, police informed the family that she would be declared a foreigner in a one-sided judgment if she disobeyed the court and may also be sent to a detention center in Goalpara. The family approached a lawyer to deal with the matter but at one point the lawyer also refused to continue with the case because of Moyna’s attitude.
The family then approached an NGO named Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP) for support and they managed to convince Moyna to visit the court once. The Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA) also extended legal support to her. The lawyer who left the case also returned at the request of the CJP.
Moyna Barmani’s lawyer submitted a handwritten copy of the NRC entry-1951 where her name appeared as Moynamoti Devi. Her name also appeared in Assam’s electoral roll of 1966, 1970, 1977, 1985, and further. A member of FT-8, Dhubri KK Chandak heard the case on December 12, 2021, and issued his opinion on January 11, 2022.
The FT’s order mentioned that Superintendent of Police Dhubri doubted the citizenship of Moyna Barmani. The case was originally registered as IM(D)T Case No. 20225/D/04. An Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) conducted verification of Moyna’s citizenship status. The case was later renumbered as FT Case in 2011, under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946
KK Chandak in his order cum opinion wrote, “Handwritten NRC copy is not readable, so we cannot consider this valid. But the electoral role of 1966 and further years showed that procedure was enrolled as a voter and had been residing in Assam before that. The opinion of this tribunal is, the procedure appears not to be a foreigner of the stream-post-1971 or any other stream. Therefore, the reference case against the procedure is answered in negative,” KK Chandak wrote in his order.
According to existing records, Moyna was born in Maitel village, an area adjacent to the Bangladesh border. She moved to Kerar part-1 village in Dhubri district of Assam after getting married at an early age, where her three children were born. After her son’s death in the early 2000s, she moved to her daughter’s house at Kedar (part-3) village under Gauripur Legislative Assembly constituency in Dhubri district.
She now lives at Kedar (part-3) and according to family members her age is 107. Her age was 20 when she applied for NRC in 1951, so the official age is 92, according to her lawyer.
Moyna’s daughter, Dhabli Bala Barman looks after her elderly mother. Dhabli informed that, when the order came home last week, Moyna said, “I can breathe my last in peace now.”
Dhabli questioned the court’s decision to send a notice to her mother who belongs to a Khilanjia (ethnic) group.
“When the government itself says that the Rajbongshi community is a Khilanjia (ethnic) group of Assam, how did they serve a notice to my mother suspecting her o be a foreigner? My mother wanted to be called an Indian till the end, we are relieved now. I’d like to thank CJP team. Without them, my mother would have died as a foreigner,” she added.
State Team In-charge of JCP, Nanda Ghosh revealed that it was a complicated issue because Moyna refused to appear before the court to prove her citizenship and a lawyer had already left the case.
“Though it was hard to convince someone of such an advanced age, we just couldn’t let it go. At one point, we managed to convince her to go just once,” Ghosh said.
“On the day of the hearing, the tribunal member asked her many questions despite her health condition, but Moyna’s response was polite and simple, ‘Baba….Amra ai desh’er e manush baba, amra bharatiyo. (Son, we are the people of this country, we are Indian),’ she told the court,” he added.