Hailakandi, Nov 20: In a very shocking incident, a declared foreigner died before he could prove his Indian identity.
Sukdev Ree (65 years of age) of Mohanpur village in Hailakandi district in southern Assam of Barak Valley was declared a foreigner and served imprisonment for three years. On November 3, Gauhati High Court found the Foreigners Tribunal's order incomplete and asked the Foreigner's Tribunal (FT) to hear the case again on December 3 this year but he died on Friday due to massive heart attack.
A social activist of Silchar, Kamal Chakraborty, who is fighting for Ree to prove his Indian origin said, "Supreme Court says, Tea Garden Tribes fall under original inhabitants of Assam category in respect to the citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issues of National Identity Card) Rules 2003, under clause 3(3). I am surprised how the tribunal court declared Sukdev Ree a foreigner."
Chakraborty said though Ree died as a foreigner but he will stand before the tribunal on the date to prove it. If the Ree could not prove his identity as Indian even after death, the family will suffer like anything as the descendants of foreigners. He termed it as very tragic and unfortunate.
104-year-old Chandradhar Das died with a similar unfulfilled wish last year. He migrated to India from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1956.
Tea garden labourer Sukdev Ree was released from the detention camp on February 26, last year based on a supreme court's advisory to release the inmates who have served imprisonment of two years or more. A case was registered against Ree in 2012 and appeared before the court a few times before his arrest on June 24, 2016. Tribunal Court declared Sukdev Ree a foreigner of post 25.03.1971 stream in an ex-parte judgement because he could not appear at the time of cross-examination due financial crisis. The court said, "The petitioner failed to discharge the burden cast upon him under Section 9 of the Foreigners Act, 1946." This order was challenged in Gauhati High Court and the court provided a chance to prove his identity.
Court wrote to the tribunal, "Considering the nature of the case and after hearing, we are of the view that the petitioner has furnished documents before the Tribunal to claim that he is an Indian. Documents including voters lists of 1966 and 1970 in which the name of his father appeared and subsequent the voters lists of 1977 and 2005 where the name of the petitioner appeared. Accordingly, it has been submitted that the petitioner has sufficient evidence. Considering the circumstances, we are of the opinion that another opportunity may be granted to the petitioner to prove that he is an Indian citizen and not a foreigner."
"It is made clear that if the petitioner fails to appear before the foreigner's tribunal, Hailakandi on 03.12.2021, the earlier order passed by the learned foreigner's tribunal on 20.04.2016 will stand revived and the order passed by this Court today will stand vacated and law will take its course," the order further states.
Late Ree's wife Sishubala and son Dhonu have broken like anything after his death. They lamented that they could not provide the fees of advocates to fight their case.
Actually trouble started when the surname of Sukdev Ree's father changed from Dhiraj Bauri to Dhiraj Ree during voters list updating process without their knowledge. But both wife and son are hopeful for justice next month even after the death and "his soul would rest in peace if he gets the identity of Indian".