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Current Affairs ( 29 Apr 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Assamese Muslims Divided As Indigenous Muslims And Immigrant Muslims

The Government Panel Proposes Census And Identity Cards For Assamese Speaking Muslims

Main Points:

1.    In Assam, Bengali speaking Muslims are considered immigrants from Bangladesh.

2.    The population of the Assamese speaking Muslims is 40 lakh.

3.    The population of Bengali speaking Muslims is 90 lakh.

4.    Bengali speaking Muslims are a dominant community.

5.    The government seeks to introduce programmes for the development of the Assamese speaking Muslims.


By New Age Islam Staff Writer

29 April 2022

One of the 8 panels formed by the Assam government to find ways for the development of the 'indigenous' Muslims (Assamese speaking Muslims) last year, has submitted its report in which it has made a number of recommendations. It has recommended that te government should define who an indigenous Assamese Muslim is. Secondly, the government should conduct a census of the indigenous Muslim and those declared indigenous Muslims should be issued identity cards. It also recommended that greater political representation should be given to them in the assembly or Parliament. In response, the government plans to create a legislative council in the assembly where some seats will be reserved for indigenous Muslims.

In July last year, the Chief Minister of Assam, Hemant Biswa Sarma had held meeting with 150 intellectuals and respected personalities from the Assamese speaking Muslims.

But this move of the government is seen by the AIUDF as an attempt at dividing the Muslims of Assam. In Assam, the Muslim community is divided into two linguistic communities. The Assamese speaking Muslims are its old inhabitants and the Bengali speaking Muslims have immigrated from the areas which fall in Bangladesh today during various periods before and after the partition. The Assamese speaking Muslims are divided into three categories -- Goriya, Moriya, Desi. Jola is also called an indigenous community of Muslims who had migrated to Assam from Bihar and UP during Railway expansion programme before independence.

The process for identifying indigenous Muslims had formally started in April 2021.

Muslims of Assam had taken part in what was called a Muslim NRC from 15 April 2021 to identify the indigenous Muslims of the state. The Assam Janagosthi Samannay Parishad (JSPA) had taken the initiative. The purpose of the survey was to identify the indigenous Muslim communities of Assam and distinguish them from the Bengali speaking Muslims who form the majority of the Muslims of Assam but are seen as immigrants from Bangladesh. The JSPA has identified and recognised only three communities -- Goria, Moria and Deshi -- as the indigenous Muslims of Assam. The rest of the Muslim population is called immigrant from Bangladesh and therefore Bangladeshis in their view. The Bengali-speaking Muslims of Assam are called Miya.

The Chairman of the JSPA, Syed Muminul Aowal was at the helm of this survey. He said that the survey was necessary because migrant Muslims are trying to merge the Goria, Moria and Deshi Muslims with the Miyas in the name of Islam. There is an identity crisis in the indigenous Muslim community. Muminul Aowal also observes that indigenous Muslims have suffered economically and politically due to the domination of Bengali Muslims.

The Minority Welfare Minister of BJP government in Assam Ranjit Dutta had made the proposal in 2019. In the Budget session of Assam in 2019, the provision for a Development Corporation of indigenous Assamese Muslims was made. The provision for a socio-economic survey of the indigenous Assamese Muslims was also made in the budget.

On 10 February 2020, a meeting of groups and communities of Indigenous Assamese Muslims was called by the Minority Welfare Minister to finalise the 'socio-economic survey' of indigenous Muslims but the word indigenous (Khilonjiya) was unanimously replaced with the specific names of four communities --Goria, Moria, Deshi and Jola. The Minority Welfare Minister had said that a Goria, Moria, Deshi Jola Development Corporation will be set up.

For a long time, the indigenous or Assamese speaking Muslims felt left behind the Bengali speaking Muslims and hold the Congress and Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF for the economic backwardness of the indigenous Muslims. Therefore, the indigenous Muslims consider the Congress and the AIUDF their enemies and the BJP government their friend and well wisher. But the AIUDF say that this move will further weaken the Muslims of the state and pit the Muslims against each other.

The indigenous Muslims say that 13 districts of Assam are dominated by Bangladeshi Muslims and 13 Muslim MLAs of the Congress are Bangladeshi Muslims.

Moinul Aowal, the head of the move and the head of JSPA, says that all the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Assam are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. He calls the Congress the Bangladeshi Muslim Party.

According to the statistics provided by the JSPA, the population of indigenous Muslims of Assam is 40 lakh(4 million). The rest 90 lakh (9 million) are Bangladeshi immigrants (Bengali speaking Assamese Muslims). The total Muslim population in the state is 1.3 crore out of the total population of 3.5 crore. The total Muslim population in Assam is 33.4 percent.

The narrow chauvinistic definition of indigenous Assamese has labelled all those Bengali speaking Muslims living in Assam since the second jalf of the 19th century as Illegal Bangladeshi which they are not because Bangladesh came into existence in 1971 and those called Bangladeshis today had only migrated from one part of India to another for livelihood.

The survey or the Muslim NRC was to be conducted in three months. People were supposed to apply online to its portal with documents issued by the organisation and government departments. After that verification would be done and the final list would be published.

This initiative of the Assam government has drawn criticism from political and social activists and intellectuals of the state. They feel that it is an exercise to cause division in the Muslim community.

If this plan succeeds, there will be a clear division between the two linguistic communities of Muslims. The Assamese speaking Muslims will become pro-BJP and the Bengali speaking Muslims will be made to feel that they are outsiders. This will subject them to harassment and social segregation.


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