What has happened?
- The Assam Cabinet Tuesday approved the identification of five Assamese Muslim sub-groups — Goriyas, Moriyas, Julhas, Deshis, and Syeds — as “indigenous” Assamese Muslim communities.
- A note from the cabinet said that the move will “ensure their development in health, cultural identity, education, financial inclusion, skill development and women empowerment.”
- The move came days after the BJP-led government decided to offer identity cards to six religious minority communities, Muslims (except the indigenous Muslims), Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis.
- The government said the identity cards would be given for their “identification” and to allow them to get benefits under the schemes meant for the welfare of the minorities.
- The decision came following the recommendations of a panel constituted by the Assam government last year to discuss socio-economic issues concerning the Assamese Muslim community of the state.
- The panel was set up in July last year after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s meeting with Assamese Muslims from various fields — writers, doctors, cultural workers, lecturers, historians,
- and musicians, among others — To discuss socio-economic challenges faced by the community.
- The stated aim of Sarma’s outreach was the community’s welfare.
- In the meeting, he emphasised that the “uniqueness of the indigenous Assamese Muslims should be protected and preserved”.
Proposal since 2020
- The move first made news when the Assam Minorities Development Board had proposed a “census” for Assamese Muslims in February 2020.
- After a meeting with the community’s members, then state minorities minister Ranjit Dutta confirmed plans to hold the census based on the 2019 Budget,
- That had provisions for a “Development Corporation for Indigenous Muslims” for “holistic development” of the community as well as a “socio-economic census”.
- However, it did not take off. In July 2021, Sarma met with the community leaders, and they were divided into seven sub-committees.
- After months of discussion, their reports were submitted earlier in April this year.
- One of the recommendations said that a notification should be passed to identify “Assamese Muslims” as a distinct group in the state.
- The other suggestions include issuing identity cards or certifications as well as conducting a census to “identify and document” the Assamese Muslim community.
- Back then, Sarma had accepted the report and said they were “implementable”, but in a phase-wise manner.
- “We can categorise them into short term, medium-term and long term,” he had said.
How they are different?
- Considered distinct from Bengali-speaking Muslims, who have a history of migration from present-day Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) to Assam over centuries,
- This group has often expressed the need for a separate identity.
Indigenous Muslim community in Assam
- Under the umbrella of the indigenous Assamese Muslim community fall three main groups: the Goriyas, the Moriyas (from Upper Assam), and the Deshis (from Lower Assam).
- While the Deshis are 13th-century converts from indigenous communities such as Koch Rajbongshi and Mech,
- The Goriyas and Moriyas trace their lineage to converts as well as soldiers, artisans, etc. who came to the region during the Ahom rule.
- Smaller groups such as Julha Muslims also fall under this
- According to organisations representing the Assamese Muslims, of the 1.18 crore Muslim population in Assam,
- Nearly 42 lakh belong to indigenous Assamese communities such as Goria, Moria, Ujani, Deshi, Jola and Poimal.
- They had either converted to Islam or were war prisoners in the Mughal-Ahom battles in Assam in the 13th Century.
- The Assam government may undertake a census to identify and document the Assamese Muslim community.
- In regard to political representation, it is suggested that a provision similar to Article 333 of the Indian Constitution might be enacted,
- To provide representation of Assamese Muslims in Parliament and Assam Legislative Assembly.
Indigenous people rights
- India is home to about 700 tribal groups with a population of 104 million, as per 2011 census.
- These indigenous people constitute the second largest tribal population in the world after Africa.
- As industries encroached upon their lands, many communities were displaced and some continued to wage a struggle to either protect their homes or demand a fair compensation.
- The move, h kowever, is seen by Bengali-speaking Muslims as a step to create a division among Muslims in Assam and further “alienate” them.
- As its poll plank, the BJP has been targeting Bengali-speaking Muslims in the state, calling them “Bangladeshis”.
Q) Which of the following statements are correct regarding Article 26?
- It deals with rights of individuals.
- Such rights are subject to public order, morality & health.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 & 2
- None of the above