Indian Asylum Seeker Released by U.S. After 70-Day Hunger StrikeTop Stories

September 27, 2019 10:33
Indian Asylum Seeker Released by U.S. After 70-Day Hunger Strike

(Image source from: Daily Mail)

The 33-year-old Indian immigrant who was on a 70-day hunger strike over the rejection of his asylum claim and lost third of his weight in the course won temporary release Thursday after a year in the United States detention.  

Ajay Kumar walked away from a detainee processing center in El Paso, Texas, with his hands clasped together in a traditional Indian greeting a tracking device around his ankle - a condition of his release. He was accompanied by human rights activists, who were shocked to know that medical personnel force-fed him by pumping liquid food into the stomach via a tube through his nose.

Early this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reached an agreement with Kumar and another Indian national resumed eating on an assurance that they would be freed, according to their lawyers. The men resumed eating Saturday and had been kept under medical scrutiny.

Despite losing around 50 pounds (23 kilograms) during the hunger strike, Kumar said he felt very good. He dropped from 150 pounds (68 kilograms) at the beginning of his hunger strike to 107 pounds (48 kilograms). Kumar said he has regained about 10 pounds (5 kilograms) but still going through pain.

I got my freedom,” Kumar said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.

Indian Asylum Seeker(Image Source: India Abroad)

Kumar and other Indian national Gurjant Singh began their hunger strike on July 8 after the immigration officials rejected their asylum claims and denial of bond.

The duo had spent at least a year in an ICE detention facility in Otero, New Mexico without any charges of crime. They think the judge did not mull over the facts of their cases individually.

Indian Asylum Seeker Ajay Kumar(Image Source: Texas Monthly)  

In a press conference last week, attorney Linda Corchado, who represents Kumar, said:

This immigration judge said, ‘All of these Indian asylum claims are incredulous. I don’t believe them,’. It is damning. You expect at least some level of weighing the facts.

Singh is expected to release Friday, attorney Jessica Miles said.

According to a statement by Kumar, he fled India as he was living in the fear of beatings, torture, and death at the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party. He alleged he was beaten up twice by BJP members for promoting the opposition Indian National Lok Dal party. The beating led  him bedridden for more than a month, according to a doctor’s note included in his asylum application.

Ajay Kumar Hunger Strike(Image Source: BBC)  

During their hunger strike, Kumar and Singh were transferred from the Otero provision to the El Paso Detention Center, with a medical wing that has turned a hub for force-feeding hunger strikers in ICE custody. At that time, Kumar, who was an anemic and gaunt Kumar told The Associated Press he would more willingly starve to death in detention than be deported back to India.

Later on, Kumar and Singh were forced to hydrate by dint of IV drips. By mid-August, they were being force-fed.

According to a recently filed court document, Kumar missed 220 meals. As per court document, an ICE doctor recommended local immigration officials strongly to release Kumar, citing his deteriorating health and commitment to continuing the hunger strike. ICE granted his release after two days.

By Sowmya Sangam

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