Other States

Assamese Muslims recognised as a distinct indigenous community

Assamese-speaking Muslim community has been seeking the recognition for years as they consider their ethnic identity greater than their religious identity. File

Assamese-speaking Muslim community has been seeking the recognition for years as they consider their ethnic identity greater than their religious identity. File | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

GUWAHATI:

About 40 lakh Assamese-speaking Muslims have been recognised as indigenous Assamese Muslims and a sub-group of the Assamese community in Assam.

The decision to grant them the recognition was taken by the State Cabinet on Tuesday evening. The move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Assam officially distinguishes the Assamese Muslims from the Bengali-speaking Muslims who have migrated from present-day Bangladesh since the late 1800s.

The Cabinet note, however, said: “This move will ensure their development in health, cultural identity, education, financial inclusion, skill development and women empowerment.”

Also read | Muslims must ensure Assamese do not end up like Kashmiri Pandits: CM Himanta

Assam has the highest proportion of Muslims after Lakshadweep, and Jammu and Kashmir. Bengali-speaking or Bengal-origin Muslims comprise the bulk of more than 34% (2011 Census) Muslims in the State.

Briefing journalists after the Cabinet meeting, Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said the Assamese-speaking Muslims were loosely tagged as “Khilonjia Musalman” (indigenous Muslims) but lacked official recognition until now. The community has been seeking the recognition for years as they consider their ethnic identity greater than their religious identity.

“Henceforth, five Muslim groups — Goria, Moria, Deshi, Jolha and Syed — will be known as indigenous Assamese Muslims,” he said.

These groups have been classified according to the period in which they inhabited Assam or the communities they converted from. The Deshis and Jolhas, for instance, converted from the Koch-Rajbongshi and Adivasi (tea plantation workers) communities.

The Assam Minorities Development Board had in 2020 pushed for official recognition of Assamese Muslims as they were being “clubbed with the migrant, Bengali-speaking migrants”, who account for more than 63% of the total Muslim population in the State.

Syed Muminul Aowal, an Assamese Muslim leader, said the community has often missed out on beneficiary schemes that invariably go to the migrant Muslims, who are a deciding factor in at least 35 of the 126 Assembly seats in Assam.


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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 7:06:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assamese-muslims-recognised-as-a-distinct-indigenous-community/article65606802.ece