Museum on migrant Muslims stirs debate in Assam

BJP legislators have asked the government to pull it down

October 25, 2022 12:35 pm | Updated 12:44 pm IST

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma had earlier rejected former Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed’s proposal for a Miya Museum in Guwahati’s Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in 2020. File

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma had earlier rejected former Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed’s proposal for a Miya Museum in Guwahati’s Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in 2020. File | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs in Assam have asked the State government to pull down a museum that showcases the culture of migrant Muslims in Goalpara district.

The private Miya Museum was inaugurated at Dapkarbhita in the Lakhipur area of Goalpara district on October 23.

‘Miya’ is a pejorative term used primarily by the indigenous communities to mean Bengal or Bengali-origin Muslims who have settled down in Assam since the late 1890s, initially brought by the British for commercial farming.

Also Read | Will not allow ‘Miya Museum’ in Assam, says BJP

Academics, professionals and writers within the community had a few years ago undertaken a project to reclaim the word for what it means in the true sense – ‘sir’ or ‘gentleman’.

While local leaders of the minority-based All India United Democratic Front have appreciated the effort to preserve the cultural traits of Muslims, including those inhabiting the char-chaporis (sandbars or river islands), BJP leaders have not taken kindly to the museum.

Prasanta Phukan, the BJP’s legislator from eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh was among the first to react to the inauguration of the Miya Museum. “I request the State government to bring down this museum,” he said.

Former BJP legislator, Shiladitya Dev has called for stronger action against the museum and the people behind it.

Congress MLA from southern Assam’s Karimganj North constituency pegged the Miya Museum to renew his demand for a Bangla Museum for Bengali speakers at a suitable location. “There is a need to preserve the culture and identity of 80-90% of Bengalis who vote in Assam,” he told journalists on October 24.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has not reacted to the demands from the leaders of his party or the opposition, but he had rejected former Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed’s proposal for a Miya Museum in Guwahati’s Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in 2020.

The Kalakshetra, popular with tourists, showcases the cultural heritage of multi-ethnic Assam.

Mr. Ahmed had cited the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Art and Culture presented to the 126-member Assembly on March 24, 2020. The committee had proposed a Char-Chapori Museum.

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