India builds first detention center for ‘stateless citizens’

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An outer wall of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants is pictured at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Labourers work at a construction site of a detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Labourers work at a school building inside the premises of an under-construction detention centre for illegal immigrants at a village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, September 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
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The northeastern Indian state of Assam is building a detention center to house thousands of stateless citizens. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 08 September 2019

India builds first detention center for ‘stateless citizens’

  • The detention center is being built at a cost of more than $6 million
  • This is the first time any state government in India has built an exclusive detention center

ASSAM: The northeastern Indian state of Assam is building a detention center to house thousands of stateless citizens.
On Aug. 31 the state released its final list of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), an exercise in establishing the genuine citizens of Assam. Out of 32 million people, about two million were not on the list.
Those who have been left off have four months to apply to foreign tribunals and higher courts.
The detention center is being built at a cost of more than $6 million at Dudhnoi village in the Goalpara district of Assam to house stateless citizens who could not find a place on the NRC.
“This detention center will keep 3,000 people and this is the first of its kind in Assam,” said Rabin Das, the engineer who is overseeing the construction of the center.
The Goalpara building is one of 11 such detention centers being planned in Assam’s districts across the state. Currently, the state has six detention centers that are run out of district jails. More than 1,000 people have been detained and are living in very poor conditions.
This is the first time any state government in India has built an exclusive detention center to hold illegal immigrants.
Sipali Hajjang, a local from the Hajjang tribe of Assam, has a job as a construction worker at the site of the new detention center at Dudhnoi. Her name is not on the NRC list and if her appeal is rejected at the foreign tribunal she may be arrested and put in the same detention center that she is helping to build.
“I am scared to work here because I know this is going to be a detention center,” Hajjang told Arab News.
“I am a poor person, I survive on daily wages. I am clueless how to appeal to the foreign tribunal and list my name on the NRC,” Hajjang said.
Her friend Sarojini Hajjang may also face the same fate.
Members of the Hajjang indigenous tribe came from East Pakistan in 1966 at the invitation of the Indian government. Most of them are poor and illiterate and could not fill in the NRC form. As a result, many of them have been left off the list despite assurances from the state government.
There are many such as Sipali Hajjang in Goalpara district, whose name is missing from the citizenship list and who face an uncertain future.
Imrana Begum, from the Darrang district in Assam, is the only one from her ten-member family whose name is missing from the NRC list. A daughter of a local legislator, Begum is upset that her name is not on the list.
“Is the government more keen to put people in the detention center than give justice to the people whose names have been erroneously removed from the NRC list,” Begum told Arab News.
She said that “the original idea of the government was to put Muslims in the detention centers but now the reality of the NRC is such that the number of Muslims left out is less than what the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has expected.”
Ranjit Das, the leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, refused to comment on the detention centers.
“My only concern is the NRC right now and how to correct the anomaly in it,” Das said.
Suhas Chakma, of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, a New Delhi-based human rights organization, questions the need to have a detention center in a civilized society.
“The government should wait for the NRC process to be completely over before going ahead with the detention center,” Chakma said.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.

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