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Why are Bengali Mian Muslims afraid of census of indigenous Muslims in Assam? – BBC Field Study

Why are Bengali Mian Muslims afraid of census of indigenous Muslims in Assam? – BBC Field Study
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image source, DILIP SHARMA/BBC


Mian Muslims are apprehensive about the census of native Muslims.

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“I am a Muslim of Bengali origin. Some call us Mian Muslims. I don’t know who the government considers indigenous Muslims? Some villagers are talking about census of Koria-Moriya Muslims. All this has created unrest among Muslims.”

This is how 60-year-old Muhammad Umar Ali described their current situation.

Mohammad Umar Ali, a resident of Debargaon, a remote village in the Bodoland region of Assam, works as a construction worker and supports his family of eight.

But in recent days, a debate in his village regarding a socio-economic survey of ‘swadeshis’ i.e. ‘tribal Muslims’ has worried him.

“Actually, I cannot understand what the government wants us to do. Earlier, we had to run to get our names in the NRC. Now again they are asking for documents from Muslims in the name of Swadeshi. We don’t know what this is,” he said.

Continuing, he said, “We are not afraid of document verification, but we are afraid of the amount of hassle we have to face every time. During NRC, I had to leave my job and travel 80 kilometers from the village to verify my documents.”

“Now our lives depend only on these documents. People here are trying to save their documents rather than saving their lives during floods,” said Muhammad Umar Ali.

image source, DILIP SHARMA/BBC


“If our Allah is one, what is the use of dividing us like this?” asks 65-year-old Aved Ali.

Who are the ‘Indigenous Muslims’?

The Assam government cabinet recently approved a socio-economic survey of the state’s indigenous Muslim population. The ruling BJP government in the state recognized five communities as ‘Indigenous Assamese Muslims’ a year and a half ago.

The Koria, Moria, Jola, Desi and Syed Muslim communities were recognized by the Assam government as indigenous Muslims. Among them, Koria, Moriya and Jola communities settled around the tea plantations, while indigenous Muslims also live in Assam.

Syed who spoke to us is considered to be an Assamese Muslim. These five communities are said to have no history of migration from what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

But after the release of this government survey, there is renewed fear and tension among Muslims of Bengali origin. About 500 Muslim families have settled in Debargaon, 62 kilometers from Guwahati, most of whom are Muslims of Bengali origin.

Floods in the Puthimari river have repeatedly destroyed the houses of the people here. To reach this village, one has to cross a dirt road of about two kilometers, which is a testimony of their daily struggle.

In Assam, Muslims of Bengali origin are colloquially known as Mian. In Assam, Mian Muslims refer to Muslims from East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh).

Earlier some called Sarua and some Pompomwa. Later they started using the word Mian for them.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma has been saying that he does not need the votes of these Mian Muslims.

Aveed Ali, a 65-year-old resident of Debargaon, is also worried about the survey. “The purpose of the Muslim census is unknown. But all this is done to get us into trouble,” he says.

“If our Allah is one, what is the use of dividing us like this? “When you don’t know what the government’s intentions are, it’s reasonable to worry,” said Aved Ali.

Mujibur Rahman, who belongs to the Mian community, is furious at not being counted among the indigenous Muslims. Speaking to the BBC, 52-year-old Mujibur said, “We are Muslims of Assam, our mother tongue is Assamese. Still, we are not counted among the tribal Muslims. Politics is being done to persecute Mian Muslims. The government created NRC. Now it is making arrangements to persecute us in the name of census.”

51-year-old Ilesini Mian from Kelaria community is married to a Muslim man. “The government can take whatever survey it wants. I have nothing to do with it. We are fine where we are. My husband is diabetic. We don’t want to get into any government trouble now,” Ilesini, who lives in Debargaon with seven children, told the BBC.

image source, DILIP SHARMA/BBC


Women from tribal Muslim communities such as Gauria marry Mian Muslims.

How will the government conduct census in Assam?

The government of Assam had earlier constituted six sub-committees to identify these five Muslim groups as indigenous Muslims. The community is categorized based on the recommendations of those sub-groups.

The government has entrusted the Directorate of Minority Affairs with the responsibility of conducting socio-economic assessment of “tribal” Muslims.

Responding to a question regarding the survey, director of the Directorate of Minority Affairs Syed Tahidur Rahman said, “We have prepared a standard operating protocol and sent it to the government regarding the survey. Once this standard operating protocol is submitted, our team will start the census. First we will start it in one or two districts.” Rahman said.

Continuing, he said, “We don’t know whether the government will negotiate with Muslims of Bengali origin or not. At present, some mechanisms have been prepared to conduct door-to-door surveys only to identify indigenous Muslims,” ​​said Syed Tahidur Rahman.

In fact, the census of Mian Muslims is seen as a problem. Because women from tribal Muslim community like Gauria marry Mian Muslims. If they are to be identified, a survey should be conducted among the Mian Muslims as well.

image source, DILIP SHARMA/BBC


The way of life of the indigenous Muslims was quite different from that of the Muslims of Bengali origin.

There are more than 40 lakh tribal Muslims in Assam

Of the 1 crore 7 lakh (as per 2011 census) Muslims in the state, more than 40 lakh are said to be indigenous Muslims. No one has any concrete documents about the number of these indigenous Muslims. The lifestyle, dress and identity of the indigenous Muslims in the state is quite different from that of the Muslims of Bengali origin.

Zakir Hussain (name changed) resident of Mariani town in Jorhat district is studying B.Sc. He considers himself different from Muslims of Bengali origin.

Commenting on the survey, Zakir said, “We are Assamese from the beginning, no one calls us Bangladeshis. This survey is important for our generation because after the survey, it will be easier to identify the indigenous Muslims, which should have happened earlier.”

President of Sadou Asom Goria-Moria-Desi-Jatiya Parishad Nurul Haque said, “Injustice has been done to the tribal Muslims of the state for decades. Mian Muslims do not consider us Muslims. Our society is insecure. We, as Muslims, “We are in a situation where there are no Assamese. Whatever development the government has done so far in the name of minority, only Mian Muslims have benefited. As there are 70 lakh Muslims of Bengali origin, political power is only with them,” he said.

Continuing, he said, “This survey is only for tribal Muslims. Muslims of Bengali origin will not be included in this. A section of Mian Muslims are trying to become tribal by calling themselves Jolaha community. But these things are not known to the government. But we have to pay attention.”

Dr Hafiz Ahmed, president of Char Sabori Parishad, which works to promote Assamese culture among Muslims of Bengali origin in the riverside areas, said the survey was part of the politics of dividing Muslims.

Speaking, he said, “The government wants to conduct a census without fixing the definition of indigenous Muslims. It is difficult to say whether such a census has legal validity and will stand up in court.”

image source, DILIP SHARMA/BBC


Negibur Zaman says identifying native Muslims – Mian Muslims will be a challenge for the government.

What kind of problem is there in the survey?

Negibur Zaman, a senior advocate of Guwahati High Court who has advocated for tribal Muslims for a long time, said, “The BJP government allocated a budget of Rs 100 crore for tribal Muslims. But as the survey work has not started, this money has not been spent. There is no benefit for the tribal people.”

Negibur Zaman explained the complexity of this survey.

“This is a socio-economic survey, so it will be conducted for all Muslims. When it comes to tribal Muslims, documents related to their ancestors will be asked. It will be easy to identify Koria-Moriya community. But Desi community is mixed with Mian Muslims. In such a situation, identify Assamese Muslims among Bengali Muslims. It will be a great challenge to see

Assamese Muslims are said to belong to the Koch Rajvanshi tribe who converted to Islam many years ago. Apart from this, the indigenous Muslims have relationships and marriages with the Mian Muslims. Identifying them in this situation will be a big challenge for the government,” said Negibur Zaman.

image source, ANI


Assam BJP president Pramod Swamy has said that the government is conducting this survey to provide some schemes to the indigenous Muslims.

What does the BJP say about the fear of Mian Muslims?

The BJP says the survey is being conducted to identify indigenous Muslims. The BJP also says that Muslims of Bengali origin need not fear or panic.

According to Assam BJP President Pramod Swamy, the government is taking this step to provide some facilities to ‘tribal’ Muslims. Therefore, a socio-economic survey should be conducted to identify them.

“Why should anyone be afraid of this? Some are spreading false propaganda that Mian Muslims are being treated as a stepmother under the BJP regime. Meanwhile, women belonging to the Muslim community have benefited more in all the schemes of the central and state governments,” he said.

Some groups of Muslims who have settled in the Barak Valley have filed a case in the Guwahati High Court against this decision of the Assam government.

Manipuri Muslims, Bangals living in Cachar district of Assam and Muslims falling under the Scheduled Tribe category are not included in this group of five tribal Muslims. Hence, the Assam Government has also faced legal hurdles.

The article is in Tamil

Tags: Bengali Mian Muslims afraid census indigenous Muslims Assam BBC Field Study


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