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My patriotism never diminished as I fought for citizenship: Veteran Mohd Sanaullah

Daulat Rahman/Guwahati

Mohammad Sanaullah, a retired Army official who was declared an illegal citizen in Assam five years ago and lodged in a detention center till the Court granted him a bail, is now one of the happiest persons on  earth. The Gauhati High Court has approved Sanaullah’s Indian citizenship by rejecting the 2019 order of the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) that declared him a foreigner – a Bangladeshi.

Expressing his gratitude to the Court, Mohammad Sanaullah said his victory was due to the training, values, ethos, and tough professional life inculcated by the Indian Army. It was only because of these that he could carry on the protracted legal fight.

“Serving the Army for 30 years has further enhanced my faith in patriotism. Even when I was declared an illegal citizen or foreigner in my land, I never lost hope in the Indian system. My patriotism was never shattered. In the Indian Army, all are treated equally. In the Army, I had learned service to the country before myself and my faith. Without having been in the Army, I would not have the will and determination to establish my citizenship before the high court,” Mohd Sanaullah who participated in the 1991 Kargil war told Awaz-The Voice.

According to Sanaullah, the ethos and values the Army has given him an attitude of never-say-no-or-die in any circumstance of life, and helped him sail through a difficult situation. He said his attitude kept his hope alive while fighting a tough legal battle to prove his Indian citizenship.

Mohammad Sanaullah retired from the Indian Army as a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO). He was shocked when one day, on the basis of a complaint his name appeared in the list of illegal citizens in Assam on May 23, 2019.

The FT (Foreigners’ Tribunal) functioning in Boko in Assam’s Kamrup district declared Sanaullah a foreigner – categorized as someone who belonged to Bangladesh and entered Assam illegally after March 24, 1971 – the cut-off date for citizenship in Assam as per the Assam Accord of 1985.

Sanaullah couldn’t make it to the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list since his appeal against the FT’s order was pending in the Gauhati High Court. The final list of NRC was published in August 2019.

Veteran Mohammad Sanaullah with his wife

Sanuallah was sent to a detention camp along with his children. He had no chance of making it to the final list of NRC since there was no provision in the law to appeal for someone who was declared a foreigner by the FTs.

The news about Sanaullah shocked the people of Assam and across the North Eastern States. People were in disbelief wondering how a ‘foreigner’ could serve the Indian Army for 30 long years. However, Mohd Sanaullah did not lose hope and remained calm, determined, and confident to prove his Indian citizenship.

“I had served the Indian army, which would not appoint anyone before a thorough investigation. President Pranab Mukherjee awarded me the President’s commendation medal in 2017. This recognition led me to be promoted as Subedar. So, I continued my legal battle against the FT’s order in the Gauhati High Court,” Sanaullah said.

Justice was finally delivered when the Gauhati High Court rejected the 2019 order of the FT and declared the former Army officer an Indian citizen. The high court delivered its judgment in March 2023 citing anomalies in the FT’s order.

Mohd Sanaullah who joined the Army in 1987 was posted in Jammu & Kashmir when the cross border terrorism was at its peak. Besides Kashmir, Sanaullah served the Army in Bhopal, Amritsar, Delhi, Jodhpur, Manipur, Hyderabad, and Guwahati.

After retiring from the Army, Mohd Sanaullah joined the Border Wing of the Assam Police as a sub-inspector in the Kamrup district after clearing the requisite tests in 2018. He was, however, suspended from the police job after he was declared an illegal citizen.

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After the Gauhati High Court’s last verdict, the State Government has reinstated Sanaullah as Sub-Inspector of the Assam Police’s border wing in Kharupetia in Darrang district.

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