Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Assam man fighting citizenship battle dies by suicide

Manik Das

The 60-year-old dry fish seller Manik Das was fighting a legal battle to prove his citizenship before a Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT) in Assam since December 2019, despite his name appearing in the National Register for Citizens (NRC) that was published a few months before that.

On Tuesday, Manik who is a resident of Borkhal village and was going through mental trauma because of the ongoing case, breathed his last. He died by suicide.

“All our names, including my father’s, featured in the NRC, but he received the notice in December 2019, saying that he had to prove his citizenship,” Indian Express quotes Manik Das’s son Kartik Das as saying.

“All his documents were in order… but he would often worry and ask, ‘how will I survive?’ We all knew he was affected by this but never expected him to take such a step. All of us were shocked,” Manik’s 35-year-old grief-stricken son said.

“My father would appear for all his hearings on time, but the entire process used to take a toll on him, especially because of the financial losses,” Kartik said.

Manik who had been selling dry fish at the weekly market in his village spent more than a lakh on the proceedings, Kartik told the newspaper.

Deepak Biswas, Manik’s lawyer claimed that Manik had all identity documents, such as PAN card, Aadhaar card, as well as land records.

“He had the requisite documents linked to his mother. The other documents were in order and he would appear in time for all his hearings. The last hearing was about a month ago, where we submitted our reply to the tribunal, and in the next, we were supposed to produce witnesses,” the lawyer said.

The case against Das was registered at the Tribunal in 2004. The Assam border police had filed a reference case against Das suspecting him to be a “foreigner” in 2004. 

Manik is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter.

In Assam, the fear over India’s citizenship test has caused more than a hundred suicides. The people in bordering villages feared revocation or denial of Indian citizenship and, perhaps, even deportation from the country. 

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