The Foreigners' Tribunals (FTs) page on the Assam government website has removed the representational image of a family showcasing the displaced victims of the 2012 riots after facing flak from the citizens.
The image clicked by Chirang-based journalist Abdul Maleque Ahmed represented the 2012 clashes between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims in western Assam, The Indian Express reported. It showed the family, including men, women, and toddlers, moving with their belongings. An illustration of a barbed wire at the fore was superimposed on the image.
The featured family is from Bhawanipur village of the Chirang district, and is registered under the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and had appealed to the government to remove the image.
Speaking to the media, Ibrahim Ali, whose mother and siblings were in the picture, said he was shocked to see themselves portrayed as foreigners. "It brought back memories of dark days. We had managed to flee just before our houses were set ablaze. We could return home only after nine months spent in a relief camp," he said, reported The Indian Express.
The matter came to light after a Bongaigaon-based journalist, Monowar Hussain, noticed the photo on the website. He tracked the photographer and the details of the people in the photograph.
Following this, on July 9, the All Assam Minority Students' Union (AAMSU) addressed a memorandum to the state Chief Secretary, asking to remove the image. They described the picture as a 'symbolic portrayal of Indian citizens as foreigners'.
"Portrayal of genuine Indian citizens as foreigners by the government is outrageous, unconstitutional, illegal, and undermines the sanctity of the department," the media quoted the memorandum.
Following the massive criticism, the government immediately remove the representational image. The union appreciated the authority's swift action but stated that the family already suffered the damage, who experience mental trauma due to the false representation. The union asked the government to issue an apology to the family and provide them with compensation.
They are the quasi-judicial bodies that arbitrate citizenship in Assam. These are established under the Foreigners' Tribunal Order, 1964. They determine if a person staying illegally is a "foreigner" or not and are the last resort for those left out in the final NRC list or have been marked as 'D' meaning 'doubtful'.