Muslim Army Man (rtd) Declared “Foreigner” in Assam, jailed & released

Mohammad Sanaullah, the retired Indian Army soldier who had been declared an illegal immigrant and detained in Assam, today said he was disappointed by his treatment despite having served the country for 30 years. Speaking to NDTV after being released on bail, he said he was a “genuine Indian” and bemoaned the fact “this is what I get after serving the nation”.
Sanaullah – who fought terrorists in Kashmir and Manipur – was arrested and locked up at a detention centre on May 29. The 53-year-old has been accused of being a foreigner who has been living illegally in the country.
The Gauhati High Court, which ordered his release yesterday, had also issued notices to the centre and the state government. Notices have also been issued to the Election Commission, National Register of Citizens (NRC) authorities and the investigation officer of the Assam Border Police Chandramal Das.
“As a soldier for 30 years, yes it hurts a lot. This is what I get after serving the nation. But I believe my case should be eye-opener. And justice will be delivered,” he told NDTV. “I never thought they will declare me foreigner because I am genuine Indian,” he added.
Sanaullah said he was only made aware of the case against him after the first draft of the NRC, when he was in Bengaluru, and that he never received notice of such a case; it was left to his initiative to approach border officials, police stations and the foreigners’ tribunal to establish the details of the case against him.
He described the conditions of the camp in which he was detained for 12 days, explaining that there were people who had been held for 10 years and others whose families had moved on.
“In the detention camp I met several people who have been declared foreigner. For years together they are there. Some are very old. (It is) very unfortunate. Many of them have similar stories like me. This is (like a) never-ending punishment. Something needs to be done for them. It’s a horrible life,” he said, describing the conditions of the camp in which he was held.
“I am extremely happy and thankful to the High Court for setting me free. I have full trust in the legal process and truth will prevail,” he added.
Mohammad Sanaullah was made a Junior Commissioned Officer in 2014 and retired as an Honorary Lieutenant in 2017, after which he worked as a Sub-Inspector of the Assam Border police – which deals with detection of illegal migrants. The same unit has now accused him of being an illegal resident.
However, earlier this week three men who allegedly signed his case report had claimed no investigation has been done in the case. They filed a police complaint, accusing Chandramal Das of fabricating the investigation report.
Chandramal Das had accepted Sanaullah was not in Assam during the period of the investigation – 2008 to 2009. He, however, claimed the man he did investigate was also called Sanaullah and blamed a mix-up of reports at the administrative level.
“We are shocked. If this can happen to a retired Indian army personnel… I appeal to PM Modi, he should see the reality of what is happening for NRC,” Sanaullah’s son, Shahid Akhtar, said.
For now, Sanuallah, whose bail is conditional on not leaving the Kamrup district without informing border police, is back home, where he will celebrate Eid, even if it is three days late. His daughter told NDTV there was a sense of happiness at home and they would celebrate his return with special items, like biryani, chicken and kheer.