52-year-old Mohammed Sanaullah joined the Indian Army in his 20s and served with the army for 30 years. Post his retirement in 2017, he served as an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) in the Border Police.
And on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, he was summoned by the Assam Border Police in Guwahati, arrested, and taken to the detention center for illegal immigrants in Goalpara. All because he unintentionally misinformed the year of his joining, to the Foreigners’ Tribunal.
The Indian government set up the Foreigners' Tribunal to hear and pass judgment on cases of illegal immigrants identified by the Border Police. In 2018, Sanaullah was served notice by the Boko Foreigners’ Tribunal, following which, he had to submit documents to prove his Indian citizenship.
Sanaullah joined the Indian Army in 1987 but mistakenly informed the year of his joining as 1978. As per New Indian Express, retired Junior Commissioned Officer Md Ajmal Haque shared that the Tribunal declared him to be a foreigner because basis the information provided, he would be 11 at the time he joined the Army.
He [Sanaullah] was born in 1967 in Assam and he joined the Army in 1987. This is the reward of his 30 years of selfless service in the Army during which he had also fought in the Kargil War. This is a sad day for ex-servicemen like us. Based on the gaffe, the Foreigners’ Tribunal declared him a foreigner.
Coincidentally, Md Ajmal Haque too had been accused of being an illegal immigrant, but later the matter was resolved.
As per India Today, right at the time of Sanaullah's capture by the police, he claimed that he is an Indian and will forever consider himself to be one.
I am an Indian, very much an Indian and will forever remain an Indian.
Aman Wadud, the legal counsel for Sanaullah, claimed that proper investigation was not taken place before detaining him. He further added that the fact that Sanaullah was not a part of the 1986 voters' list went against him.
In the verification report filed by the police, they had written that Sanaullah was a labourer. They claim that since he was 20 years of age in 1986, the fact that he did not register to vote is proof that he is not an Indian citizen. They, however, overlook the fact that the 61st Constitutional Amendment, lowering the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, was passed in March 1989.
The order by which Sanaullah has been declared a "foreigner" asks - WHY his name was not recorded in 1986 voters list as he was 20 years of age then.— Aman Wadud (@AmanWadud) May 29, 2019
Minimum age to vote was lowered from 21to18 by 61st Const. Amendment. President gave assent to the amendnt on March28,89
Millions of citizens are struggling to prove their identity before the National Register of Citizens is published on July 31. Though the aim of the NRC is to separate Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in Assam, such cases of mistaken identities prove that clearly, there are gaps in the process.
Currently, Sanaullah's family and fellow retired Army personnel have challenged the judgment of the Foreigners’ Tribunal and filed an 'appeal' in the Gauhati HC.