In a bizarre twist and turn, a retired army officer has been landed in a disputable issue of illegal migrants in the northeastern state. He has been labeled as a Bangladeshi immigrant by the Assam police and is being asked to prove his citizenship with valid documents.
Mohammad Azmal Hoque was a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) in the army for the past 30 years. He retired last year after serving his duty and was living with his family in Guwahati, when he was summoned by a foreigners’ tribunal.
There are around 100 foreigners’ tribunals set up in Assam to detect immigrants who are illegally residing in the state and those who entered India after Bangladesh was separated in 1971.
One of those tribunals, as part of their job, has asked Hoque to prove he is Indian and not an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh..
The noticed, issued on July 6, mentioned that a case has been registered against Hoque by the district Police for his illegal entry in Assam without valid documents after March 25, 1971, the day Pakistan army launched Operation Searchlight against the people of then East Pakistan.
In the notice, Hoque was summoned before the court on September 11 to prove his citizenship but he failed to acknowledge it. The notice reached his ancestral village Kalahikash near Boko, after September 11. He will now have to appear before the tribunal on October 13.
The 49 years old said, “This incident has saddened me a lot. Even after 30 years of service to the nation, we are asked to prove our identity. This is unnecessary harassment,” to Hindustan Times.
In 2012, Hoque’s wife Mamtaj Begum had also been summoned by a foreigners’ tribunal but she received a clean chit after providing all the necessary documents. Having his father’s name mentioned in the voters list of 1966 and mother’s name listed in the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC), Hoque maintains his family to be indigenous Assamese.
Hoque’s son and daughter are studying in the prestigious Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehradun and the Army Public School in Narengi, Guwahati, respectively.
After serving at border areas in Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh, Hoque joined the army as Subedar in a non-combat role as technician and retired from the corps of electronics and mechanical engineers (EME).
“I have no doubt that I will get justice at the tribunal. But it pains me when my daughter questions me if this is how the country treats those who serve it for so many years,” he said.
Prior to this case, earlier, Assam police constable Abu Taher Ahmed was also accused of being an illegal immigrant, and was later held an Indian citizen by the foreigners’ tribunals.
Infiltration of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has been one contentious issue in Assam. Records claims, nearly 80,000 people have been detected as foreigners in Assam since 1986 and 29,729 were deported. At present around 200,000 cases are pending in the foreigners tribunals.