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Indian ICE detainee released after 70-day hunger strike

NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, September 30, 2019: Ajay Kumar, 33, an Indian immigrant who went on a 70-day hunger strike over the rejection of his asylum claim won temporary release September 26. He had spent a year in ICE detention, reports AP.

Kumar bowed with his hands as he walked away from a detainee processing center in El Paso, Texas, with a tracking device around his ankle. He reportedly lost nearly 50 pounds during his hunger strike and weighed a mere 107 lbs.

“I’m feeling very good, sir, because I’ve got my freedom and I’ve waited a long time for this,” Kumar told reporters after his release.

He and five other Indian men began their hunger strike in July, to demand that they be released while their asylum claims are considered. Kumar and two others eventually started being force-fed through a nasogastric tube by ICE for over three weeks. An El Paso federal judge criticized ICE over the agency’s treatment of Indian men hunger-striking for their freedom.

Lawyers of Kumar and Gurjant Singh, a fellow Indian detainee on hunger strike, said ICE agreed to a deal last week to release the two men if they would resume eating. The men began eating again on Sept. 21 and had been kept under medical observation.

The two men began their hunger strike July 8 after their claims for asylum was rejected. They had spent almost a year in an ICE detention facility in Otero, New Mexico without bond, even though they had not been charged with a crime.

“This immigration judge said, ‘All of these Indian asylum claims are incredulous. I don’t believe them,’” AP quoted attorney Linda Corchado, as saying.

Singh has not yet been released.

Kumar told immigration officials he fled India because he feared beatings, torture and death at the hands of  Bharatiya Janta Party. He said he was attacked twice by BJP members for his work promoting the opposition Indian National Lok Dal party, including a beating that had him bedridden for more than a month, according to a doctor’s note included in his asylum application, reports AP.

According to court documents, an ICE doctor urged local immigration officials to release Kumar.  He was granted release two days later.

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