Assam: foreign parents in detention camps, children roll beedis for a living

By: Syeda Ambia Zahan

GUWAHATI: Until three years ago, Rahima Begum, 24, spent her days caring for her three children and making them learn the alphabets while her husband was away for construction work.

But now Rahima spends eight hours a day rolling beedi (tobacco in tendu leaves). His three sons, Salma, 9, Faruk, 5 and Suleman (4), also come together, rolling a pack of beedi after another in the backyard of his house in the town of Gaspara, along the border between Indo- Bangla, 16 km from Dhubri. village.

“The youngest is not good at rolling beedis. But Salma and Faruk understood very quickly. In fact, Salma is the fastest, says Rahima, the wife of Abu Bakkar Siddique (30), who has been in Goalpara detention camp for the past three years. His children do not go to school as Rahima had expected. After Siddique's arrest, she returned to her father's house in Gaspara.

Siddique was declared a foreigner in 2016 after being caught by the police while working as a construction worker in the Jorhat district. The case went to the Supreme Court, but was declared a foreigner. Suleman has never seen his father.

“I'm waiting for him to come back from jail. I have been told that I would be released after completing three years. I am eager to send my children to school. They are already too old for elementary school, ”says Rahima, his busy children working on beedi rolls: his mother has set the goal of throwing 500 beedis a day.

Like Salma, Faruk and Suleman, in another village of Sahebganj in the Golakganj income circle of Dhubri, Anita Mandal (name changed), 12, rolls around 1,200 beedis a day after school.

Anita, a class V student, spends four hours after school to earn around 150 rupees per day. On a holiday, you can roll up to 2,000 beedis. His parents are in the Kokrajhar detention camp.

The Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 prohibits the employment of children under 14 years. Therefore, none of the children have an identity card issued by the Ministry of Labor and Employment that entitles Beedi workers to certain benefits.

Sunita Changkakoti, president of the Assam State Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (ASCPCR), told TOI: “The children's rights commission and the state government have to prepare a guide for each child, so they can Take advantage of all children's rights. We will definitely address issues related to the rehabilitation of these children and their rights as soon as possible.

Anita earns about Rs 2,500 per month working as a Beedi worker. I put a scarf around my mouth so that the tobacco dust doesn't enter my mouth, she says.

Of the 19 lakhs left outside the NRC in Assam, 1.6 lakh are from the border district of Dhubri. Miguel Das Queah, executive director of the Universal Team for Action and Social Assistance, a children's rights organization based in Assam, said: “The rights of children whose parents are in detention camps, or who are there, are not being protected in the way they should. Be by the state. The understanding of the rights of the child is very bleak from the point of view of the police for all. We need to help the government help protect the rights of these children.

According to a report presented at the Assam assembly, there are 31 children languishing in various detention camps in the state. UTSAH has submitted an RTI request to know the status of the rights of children living in these camps and whose parents are staying there.

Masud Zaman, a defender from the city of Dhubri, who has been providing legal assistance to people in detention camps in Assam, feels that the state government needs to come forward to protect the rights of children, who are being pushed into an uncertain future by identifying foreigners. “No law in any country has granted rights to the state to keep children away from their parents. The state could say that these are not our children and are foreigners. However, until they live in our state, they have the right to universal rights for children. But I see that the state is completely turning its back on these children, ”said Zaman.