Johrabai Shaikh
Johrabai Shaikh

Mumbai: For 68-year-old Johrabai Shaikh, who was at the Esplanade Magistrate court on Tuesday, history has repeated itself, but in a devious manner.

Her 27-year-old grandson, Nabi Shaikh, has been accused of being a Bangladeshi citizen who had illegally entered the country and taken up residence. He was produced before the magistrate on Tuesday and placed in police custody till Thursday.

Arguing against Nabi’s remand, his advocate Mohammed Husain told the court that in 1994 the youth’s grandmother had been acquitted on a similar charge and the court had found her to be an Indian citizen. But the court did not pose any query about that case and mechanically gave police the custody, Hussain pointed out.

But, by an uncanny coincidence, in the same building 18 years ago on December 2, 2002, Shaikh, then 50, had been acquitted by metropolitan magistrate SS Shirke of being an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant.

The court had then said that the documents tendered by Shaikh showed that she had been residing in Mumbai for many years, which had dispelled doubts about her nationality; therefore, she was acquitted.

Significantly, Magistrate Shirke had noted in his order on Shaikh, “She produced an identity card issued to her by the Election Commission which allows her to take part in the election to the house of people and the legislative assembly, which she cannot possibly do unless she is a citizen of India. She has also produced a new passport issued to her by the Government of India.

After expiry, a new passport was issued to her...the passport cannot be issued unless the applicant is a citizen of India. These two documents prima facie indicate that she is not a foreigner in India.”

The court also noted that Shaikh had produced both old and new ration cards, a domicile certificate and the birth certificate of her daughter.

The court had further observed, “The police cannot act arbitrarily but need to conduct a discreet inquiry before prosecuting a person alleged to be a Bangladeshi.” But, apart from asking Shaikh to produce the necessary documents, the police did nothing else.

Johrabai Shaikh on Tuesday asked the court if it was convinced that she is an Indian, how her grandson could be a Bangladeshi. Asked how long she has been in India, she said, “Meri aankhen hi idhar khuli.

Wo humein Bengali hai bol ke, Bangadeshi bolte hain.” (My eyes opened here. Because we are Bengali they think we are Bangladeshis).”

She recalled spending seven days in the lock up back in 1994 when she was arrested by the police who had alleged she was a Bangladeshi.

Nabi’s 24-year-old sister Adiya Shaikh, who had accompanied her grandmother to the court, explained that Nabi works at the docks where he does insulation work; he had gone to help his uncle sell fish at Antop Hill, when the police arrested him for being a Bangladeshi.

Coincidentally, 26 years ago Johrabai Shaikh was also arrested from Antop Hill area where the family used to live. Now, the family lives in Chembur.

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