Woman declared 'Indian' then 'foreigner' seeks compensation after release from detention

     Guwahati, Dec 17 (PTI) The fight to prove her Indian citizenship may have taken a physical and mental toll on 55-year-old Hasina Bhanu and her ailing husband but she is hopeful that the Gauhati High Court, which ordered her release from Assam's Tezpur Central Jail, will ensure she is adequately compensated.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A day after her release, Bhanu, surrounded by her family in Shyampur village of Darrang district, said on Friday that their lives had been shattered as her husband had to sell off their agricultural land to fight the legal battle to establish that she was not a foreigner but a bonafide Indian citizen.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;''A grave injustice was done to me....my self-respect was shattered, we were mentally harassed and economically drained. I thank the Gauhati High Court and my lawyer Zakir Hussain for ensuring my release. I also hope that the court will direct the authorities to compensate us adequately or else we will be ruined,'' a weary Bhanu told PTI over the phone.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Hasina Bhanu alias Hasna Bhanu was declared 'Indian' in 2016 and a 'foreigner of 25:3:1971 stream' in 2021 by the Darrang Foreigners Tribunal (FT), after which she was arrested and lodged in a detention camp in Tezpur jail in October 2021.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The Gauhati High Court, however, overturned the tribunal's order earlier this week, invoking the doctrine of 'res judicata' which relates to matters finally decided on merit by a court having competent jurisdiction and not subject to further litigation by the same parties. "The proceedings against her cannot be sustained," the bench ruled.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The FT had upheld Bhanu's Indian citizenship in August 2016, but the same tribunal declared her a foreigner after the Assam police said she was a suspected Bangladeshi and referred the matter back to it.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A division bench of Justices Kotiswar Singh and Malasri Nandy ruled on Monday that the identity of the petitioner in the earlier proceeding and the impugned second proceeding is the same and there is no finding by the tribunal that the present petitioner is different from the earlier person, and as such the second opinion in respect of the same person was not sustainable.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;She alleged on Friday that many cases were filed against Muslims at the FTs as part of a political conspiracy. "We are being harassed only because we are Muslims. We are just pawns in a game of chess," she said.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Bhanu said she could walk out free as her family had land but there are at least 15-16 other Muslim women in the same jail who are unable to fight the legal battle as they are very poor. "I feel sad for them and pray that they also come out soon," she added.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Her 60-year-old husband Ayen Ali said if poor farmers had to sell off their land for fighting cases foisted on them on trumped-up charges how will they survive.<br><br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The couple has six children--four married daughters and two sons.<br><br>        "My youngest son had to give up his studies last year as we could not pay the fees for his board examinations and he left for Bangalore in search of work. He was very disturbed when his mother was sent to jail, and often talked about ending his life. Our relatives rallied behind us and counselled him to give up such thoughts," Ali added. PTI DG<br>SK   SK

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)