“Miya Museum” proposal stirs debate in Assam

A committee comprising BJP legislators had approved the idea that Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma rejected.

October 26, 2020 04:59 pm | Updated 05:01 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. File

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. File

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma rejected a Congress MLA’s idea of setting up a “Miya Museum” at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, a centre in Guwahati showcasing the State’s cultural heritage.

The proposal from Sherman Ali Ahmed, who represents the Baghbar Assembly constituency, and the Minister’s reaction have stirred a debate in Assam.

But independent Rajya Sabha member Ajit Kumar Bhuyan pointed out that a 16-member panel, which included six MLAs of the BJP, had already approved such a proposal.

In a letter to the Director of Museums on October 18, Mr. Ahmed sought the establishment of a museum at the Kalakshetra reflecting the culture and heritage of the people living in the char-chaporis (river islands or sandbars).

He also referred to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Art and Culture presented to the 126-member Assembly on March 24.

“As the people living in char areas are mostly referred to as Miya, I have proposed to the government to establish a museum that would highlight and reflect the culture and heritage of the Miya people,” he said.

Dr. Sarma was quick to trash the idea. Reacting to the Congress MLA, he said: “In my understanding, there is no separate identity and culture in the char areas of Assam as most of the people there had migrated from Bangladesh. In the Kalakshetra, which is the epitome of Assamese culture, we will not allow any distortion.”

The cultural centre is named after Sankaradeva, a 15th-16th century saint-reformer who had propagated Vaishnavism across present-day Assam and beyond.

Mr. Bhuyan countered the Health Minister by posting on social media the pages of the Standing Committee’s recommendations. The committee was headed by Asom Gana Parishad MLA Utpal Dutta and included six BJP legislators — Padma Hazarika, Manshing Rongpi, Utpal Borah, Ganesh Kumar Limbu, Binod Hazarika and Rupak Sarmah.

Apart from a museum on the “people of the Char-Chaporis”, the committee had recommended the establishment of a separate museum on the Gurkha community in Assam.

“The Char-Chapori museum was recommended by the committee whose majority members are from the BJP and its ruling coalition. Now, after passing a recommendation with support from majority members, the BJP is politicising the whole issue to garner political mileage,” Mr. Bhuyan said.

“Will the members of the committee disclose on what basis was a museum on Char-Chapori proposed in the Kalakshetra premises? Will the MLAs from the ruling coalition answer why they supported the recommendation in the first place?” he asked.

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