Guwahati, Oct 4: Following the furore over serving "foreigner" notice to a retired army official from Assam, the state police on Tuesday told reporters in Guwahati that "it was a case of mistaken identity".
The police added that the notice was actually meant for a "suspected Bangladeshi immigrant" who shares the retired army man's name and village, but by "mistake" ended up being sent to the "wrong" person.
Recently, Mohammad Azmal Haque, a retired army official who had served the country for three decades, was asked to prove his Indian citizenship by the foreigners tribunal (Number 2) at Boko in Kamrup district of Assam.
Assam director-general of police Mukesh Sahay told reporters that inquiry had so far revealed that the notice, originally issued by the foreigners tribunal in Guwahati, was meant for another Azmal Haque, a suspected Bangladeshi living in Kalahikhas village under Boko police station in Kamrup district against whom a case was registered in 2008 and who has since fled from Assam.
Since he was suspected to hail from Nayapara village in Mymensingh district of Bangladesh, the tribunal served a notice to him.
"But as suspected Bangladeshi Azmal Haque had fled, police sent the notice back to the Guwahati tribunal. After a new foreigners tribunal was set up at Boko in Kamrup district recently, the same notice was again sent to Boko police station, this time by the Boko tribunal. Two police constables went to the village but they did not find the suspected Bangladeshi.
"The policemen were accompanied by the gaonburah (village headman) and he, given the similarity in names, took them to the home of the retired armyman. There they met the wife of his brother Muslimuddin Ahmed. She refused to receive the notice as there was no male member present in the house. When the retired armyman got to know of a notice having been issued in his name, he sent his brother to the police station to pick it up. Our policemen said it could not have been for him but his brother insisted on taking the notice," Sahay said.
The top cop said an inquiry has been ordered to fix responsibility within a week, to find out if there was any lapse on part of the police by serving notice to the retried army man.
"During verification it was found that while the names of the suspected Bangladeshi and the army man were the same, the names of their parents and other family members were different. We have clarified this to the retired army man and senior officers of the army who got in touch with us after the incident was highlighted in the media," he said.
However, Haque refuted the DGP's claim that the police were reluctant to hand over the notice to his brother. "The police are lying now to hide their mistake," he said.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked the Assam police to conduct an inquiry into the incident and take action against those responsible for the goof up, if any.
Haque, who joined the Indian Army as a sepoy on September 13, 1986, and retired as a junior commissioned officer on September 13, 2016, was "hurt" for being questioned about his nationality.
"It hurts to receive such a notice after serving and defending one's motherland for three decades," the ex-serviceman said. The local tribunal office in its notice asked the former army personnel to appear before its members on October 13 with required documents to prove that he was not an illegal Bangladeshi migrant.
Similar kind of notice, like the one served to Haque, putting a person in the doubtful-voter ('D' voter) category, was served to 40 others from his native village.
"Considering the current situation in the state, I am forced to think that it had happened to me only because I belong to a particular community. Around 40 others from my village have been given such notices and I personally know that they are all Indian citizens," he added.
Even in the past he had received such a notice. Haque said he received a notice in 2012 saying he was a doubtful voter. "...but I submitted all documents in the tribunal court and it had declared me as an Indian citizen," he added.
"Why do I have to be humiliated so many times? I request the prime minister, the president and the home minister to end this harassment of a proper citizen," Haque was quoted as saying by PTI.
He said a notice was slapped on his wife also in 2012, but the "tribunal declared her an Indian citizen after she furnished proof".