Among other things this year, I have covered the myriad ways in which citizenship trials have affected almost all communities in Assam. Receiving a notice from a foreigners' tribunal left these families devastated - socially, financially, emotionally.

A thread 👇
Amena Begum, a Khilonjia (indigenous) Muslim, was marked a D voter in '97. She received a notice in 2013 but was detained three years after being declared a foreigner. In her village in North Lakhimpur, many other Assamese Muslims have received notices…
Amena's case was re-opened based on a review petition filed in the GHC. Her writ appeal had been dismissed due to the delay in filing.

She did not get a copy of the State complaint against her, which said, ‘No proper documents’ and she’s from Assamese linguistic background.
Although the deadly Covid-19 pandemic this year split many families, it was an odd blessing in disguise for detainees declared illegal foreigners in Assam. Asgar Ali, a Kolkata Bengali, came home thanks to the SC order which released > 300 detainees.…
If not for the pandemic, Asgar Ali would have come home only in July after completing three years in detention. Under the older order passed in May 2019, he would also have had to pay a bond of Rs 100,000.…
Two detainees died this year - 60-year-old Rabeda Begum at the Kokrajhar detention centre during the lockdown. She was the 30th declared foreigner to die in detention. Soon after, her daughter, who was detained along with her, was released…
Surviving the lockdown, when everything came to a standstill, was a huge challenge. Narayan and Amari Das came home after 2 years with several health problems. Their son, the only breadwinner, couldn't find steady work to support the family.…
The future looked bleak to Amari. She said they had spent nearly Rs 400,000 fighting their case and filing appeals. Now, they have nothing to fall back on. GHC dismissed their appeal.

“Unless the government steps in, we are totally helpless”…
After passing the CAA, however, the government hasn't framed the rules in the last 10 months. Meanwhile, Hindus in Assam (Bengalis, tribals) continue to be declared foreigners allegedly by members from the comforts of their homes during the lockdown…
While Hindus are yet benefit from CAA, “A quarrel has been started between the Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. Even the Assamese people are against us (Bengali Hindus),” said advocate Niladri Roy. “For nothing we have become the enemy here.”…
There's much confusion in Assam over CAA, a move that heavily hit the BJP government here before COVID19.

Tribunals continue to declare foreigners based on Citizenship Act, '55 (cut off@ '71). CAA doesn't change this but adds that doubtfuls can apply for citizenship under 2014
Assam's solicitor general said, “Hindus who receive notices just have to submit a few documents to show they have been residing here before the new cut off date"

But the “declared foreigners” contest the need to declare themselves foreigners at all…
Rakesh, whose father died with the bideshi tag in July after being declared last December, said, “I’m an Indian, not because I’m a Hindu but because I was born and brought up here”

“This is my homeland.”

His name is not in the NRC.… Image
Two recent developments -

The Gauhati High Court order to move detention camps out of district jails…

And the NRC authorities ordering the deletion of 'ineligible' names from the 2019 list…
But as @p_semolina argues "that's just geography"…

@pbhushan1 told me in June that you cannot detain a person for more than 6 months after which they have to be deported (If the alleged country of citizenship accepts) or released on bail.
The recent developments lay bare two very key majoritarian demands in Assam - one, humanitarian detention camps. Won't argue against detention since many declared or suspected foreigners change addresses.

Indefinite detention is already ruled out. Work permits will soon follow.
Two, the whole system functions on a certain no. of foreigners believed to have entered Assam, a sentiment seen in the agitation and anti CAA protests.

In the pursuit of these numbers, many innocents incl those considered indigenous to Assam have been victimised by the system.
But who decides who's a foreigner and an indigenous is a question that still hasn't been broached. And this needs serious introspection.


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More from @makesyoucakes

16 Oct
Today 6pm interview of NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah with Karan Thapar on @thewire_in
The small but significant irony here is that the interview's sponsored by Glenlivet 🤭
Muivah calls the Naga National Political Groups 'traitors'
Read 7 tweets
14 Oct
After war broke out with China in 1962, thousands of Chinese Indians were picked up from Northeast and taken away to Rajasthan to be interned at India's first detention camp. For @IndianQuarterly I wrote about those who left after their release and some who stayed back Image
For Joy Ma (The Deoliwallahs), Yin Marsh (Doing Time with Nehru) and Andy Hsieh - identify as Indians till today despite emigrating decades ago. But they carry on with this feeling of betrayal - being detained for yrs and not being allowed to go back to their homes. Image
John Wong stayed back in his place of birth, Cheenapatty close to Makum that was once a thriving Chinatown in Assam. Today it's a faint ghost of its past with Wong's family and friends standing as relics. His late parents naturalised in the 90s. Their names are all in the NRC. Image
Read 8 tweets
2 Aug
As we're close to almost a year since the abrogation of article 370 in J&K, re-upping my piece from my meeting last year with NSCN leader, Th. Muivah, who said the decision to scrap Kashmir's special status 'unacceptable'…
On Aug 5, it'll be five years since the leader signed a framework agreement with the Centre, in the midst of Narendra Modi. Since then, his brother in arms, Isak Chishi Swu passed away and he had been patiently waiting for the talks to proceed towards a peace accord.
But things changed after Kashmir status was scrapped and Indian interlocutor RN Ravi was sent as Governor of Nagaland. Muivah, who had mostly avoided speaking to the media himself, spoke to several outlets about a sense of betrayal from the Indian govt. That they had been led on.
Read 9 tweets
26 May
Curating some of the best amongst the scant coverage of challenges faced by migrants from Northeastern states during covid19 lockdown…
"Jamal had spent many anxious months when the National Register of Citizens had been in the making. When he found that his name was not on it, he had to rush back"…
Not (at least, strictly) a migrant story but exhibits the amazing fellowship of the Mizos as a community…
Read 12 tweets
23 Dec 19
Crisis reporting for freelancers in India - A thread 

When violent protests broke out in Guwahati, a few unsettling realisations dawned on me as a freelance journalist. Putting them together for the benefit of others like me but more imp publications/channels that hire us.
1/n A presscard is the most sacrosanct during crisis. Of course, there's every chance of you being unable to escape harm despite one but it is a useful, even if temporary, shield.
Most editors I spoke to at the time said they could only offer me an official letter. That's nice but when the cops or a mob comes at you with batons or lethal weapons, they're not going to stop to read a letter. I think the best experienced journalists know this too well.
Read 14 tweets
31 Oct 19
I know journalists are rushing to break news on the names of those who have been spied on by Pegasus. But a security expert just told me that revealing names is the WORST idea.
They said that this is bigger than just select activists, journalists and academics being snooped upon. Revealing their names puts their family members, friends and colleagues at risk of being targeted.
They say that this is not the first time. Happened with Israeli, MENA and Tibetan activists way before. There's a reason WhatsApp or @citizenlab chose not to reveal any names.
Read 6 tweets

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