Assamese Muslim leaders upset with the fictional tag on Bagh Hazarika

A row has erupted over the 17th century Muslim warrior who fought the Mughals alongside Lachit Barphukan.

January 12, 2023 08:21 am | Updated 10:35 am IST - GUWAHATI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi bieng presented a statue of freedom fighter Lachit Borphukan by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in New Delhi recently. File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi bieng presented a statue of freedom fighter Lachit Borphukan by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in New Delhi recently. File photo | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

A section of Assamese Muslim leaders has resented the right-wing bid to pass off Ismail Siddique, a warrior celebrated for fighting the Mughals alongside legendary Ahom general Lachit Barphukan in the 17 th century, as a fictional character.

The warrior was popularly known as Bagh Hazarika.

Addressing a State convention of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Guwahati on January 8, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma indicated Bagh Hazarika was fictional. Claiming there was no authentic information about Bagh Hazarika in the history books, he said a narrative had been created about him. “Our history teachers have never questioned this narrative,” he said.

“We reject the Chief Minister’s interpretation of history about one of Assam’s illustrious sons with a communal overtone,” a statement issued by 10 Assamese Muslim intellectuals and scholars said.

“If there is any confusion about Bagh Hazarika, the government should constitute a committee of historians under a university in Assam to find out whether he existed or not,” the statement said.

The 10 include professors Abu Nasser Syed Ahmed and Poynuruddin Ahmed, former Minister Samsul Huda, political activist Mehdi Alam Bora, and Kazi Nekib Ahmed and Mushtaq Golam Osmani of the Bagh Hazarika Research Forum.

Mr. Osmani said Bagh Hazarika finds mention in the works of noted historians Bhuban Chandra Handique and Surjya Kumar Bhuyan. He pointed out that the latter, in his Annals of the Delhi Badshahate, writes of “the Muhammadan Commander Bagh Hazarika whose military genius was partly responsible for the success of Lachit Barphukan‘s operation against Ram Singh (who led the Mughal army during the Battle of Saraighat in 1671)”.

While Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah advised Mr. Sarma to read up to get his history right, the Tai Ahom Yuva Parishad slammed the Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party for distorting the Ahom history by trying to appropriate him as a Hindu icon.

The controversy over Bagh Hazarika began during the celebration of Lachit Barphukan’s 400 th birth anniversary in November 2022. On that occasion, the Hindu Jagran Manch said Bagh Hazarika was a fictional character without any “symbolic representation” in Assam’s history.

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