Identify Muslims as a distinct community: Assamese Panel

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Himanta Biswa Sarma,

By Muslim Mirror

A panel set up by the BJP-led government in Assam has recommended that a notification be passed to identify “Assamese Muslims” as a distinct group in the state.

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The commission was set up in July 2021 by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma after meeting with representatives of the Assamese Muslim community to discuss socio-economic issues from different regions. Divided into seven sub-committees, the commission presented its report on Thursday after months of deliberations.

The other recommendations include the issuance of identity cards or certificates, as well as census advice to “identify and document” the Assamese Muslim community.

The local Assamese Muslim community consists of three main groups – Goria, Moria (from Upper Assam) and Desi (from Lower Assam).

While Desi’s are converts from local communities such as 13th-century coaches Rajabungshi and Mitch, Goria and Moria are converts as well as descendants of soldiers and artisans who came to the area during the Ahom period.

Smaller groups such as Julha Muslims also fall under this category.

These groups consider themselves distinct from the Bengali-speaking Muslims who migrated from East Bengal or Bangladesh.

Accepting the report on Thursday, Sharma said that all the recommendations were “implementable”, but in a phase wise manner. “We can categorise them into short term, medium term and long term,” he said.

He also added that the committee has put forth a definition of Assamese Muslims in the report. “We have accepted the definition….now the target group will be clearer, and what work needs to be done for them,” he said, adding that the next stage will include “legislative mechanisms, administrative decisions and financial support” to these groups.

Apart from identity, the report also spoke of more political representation to the group. It called for a provision similar to the Article 333 of the Constitution to provide “representation of Assamese Muslims in Parliament and Assam Legislative Assembly.” “An Upper House (Legislative Council) may be created in Assam as per Article 169 of the Indian Constitution. Once the Legislative Council is formed, specific number of seats may be reserved for Assamese Muslim community in this Council” a release by the government said.

The report also made suggestions on matters related to education, political representation, health, skill development and women empowerment.

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