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EDITORIAL

Assamese Muslims

Assamese Muslims

Sarbananda Sonowal deserves praise for having decided to conduct a census of the indigenous Muslim communities of Assam. Though no immediate statistics is available regarding the exact numerical strength of the indigenous Muslims of the state, it is a generally accepted fact that they have been grossly neglected by successive governments – particularly those belonging to the Congress party. The most important reason is – they don’t constitute a vote bank. A political leader from the Assamese Muslim community had even briefly occupied the office of the Chief Minister, but no Assamese or any other indigenous Muslim remembers her for having done anything for them. Muslims had first settled in Assam, probably to the west of Guwahati, in the third decade of the 13th century. Since then, successive groups of Muslims – small in number though – like most other communities who came here and accepted the banks of the mighty river as their motherland, have happily merged, accepted the Assamese way of life and culture, contributed to the socio-economic growth and laid down lives for the honour of this land. These several groups of Muslims who, over the decades have become inseparable from the greater Assamese society, have come to be known by different names – Goria, Moria, Deshi, Ujani, Maimal, and Jalahs etc. Look at the great Assamese heroes these communities have produced, from Ismail Siddique Hazarika – the legendary Bagh Hazarika who was the most trusted lieutenant of Lachit Barphukan in the great Battle of Saraighat – to Bahadur Goanburha and Farmud Ali, two unforgettable names of the Sepoy Mutiny in Assam. A member of the community had even become the President of India. Soon after the BJP-led government announced conducting a census of indigenous Muslims, the strong pro-immigrant lobby has opposed it. One ill-informed political leader of the pro-immigrant lobby even went to the extent of saying that the Ahoms are less indigenous than the immigrant Muslims. This is a clear indication that the pro-immigrant lobby is out to foment trouble. The Sonowal government has reportedly proposed to set up an Indigenous Muslims Development Council too. This is a very significant decision.