Assamese Muslims seek ethnic tag and reservation

According to organisations representing Assamese Muslims like him, 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 Mughals-Ahoms battles in Assam in the 13th Century. 

The ruling BJP leaders' frequent comments that Bangladesh-origin Muslims pose an identity threat to the indigenous Assamese has made Khairul Siddique worried.

The student leader from western Assam's Kamrup district fears that the indigenous Assamese Muslims group he belongs to could be mixed up with the large population of the Bengali-speaking migrant Muslims and termed equally a "threat." "We converted from Koch community (an ethnic Hindu). Our forefathers converted into Islam but we still speak Assamese and have never felt isolated from the Assamese society. But since we practice the same religion, we are often suspected as Muslims who had migrated from erstwhile Pakistan or Bangladesh. We need an ethnic tag to differentiate us from the migrant Muslims," Siddique said.

According to organisations representing Assamese Muslims like him, 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 Mughals-Ahoms battles in Assam in the 13th Century. 

The growing concern for ethnic identity in Assam has led the indigenous Muslims demand OBC category for them, like other ethnic communities such as the Ahoms, Morans and Mottocks. "Before the elections, BJP had promised to protect the identity of the indigenous Assamese people against the large migrant Muslims. Why can't it now grant us ethnic tag, allot seat reservations in the Assembly, jobs and educational institutions and have a separate department for our welfare? They are now in power, both at the Centre and the state," said Nurul Hoque, executive president of All Assam Goria, Moria, Deshi Jatiya Parishad, a forum of indigenous Assamese Muslims.

The ongoing update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 that seeks to segregate citizens and "illegal migrants" in Assam with March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date has deepened their identity fear. "The NRC update will offer Indian citizenship to a large number of migrants (majority Muslims), who settled in Assam between 1951 and March 24, 1971. Then our number will be less and so welfare boards set up for the minorities would be headed by the Bangladesh-origin Muslims. They will never look after our interests," a senior lawyer, Nekibur Zaman said.

BJP leader and Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently said Hindu Bengali migrants should be given citizenship to strengthen Assamese people politically and fight the threat posed by Bangladesh-origin immigrant Muslims.

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Assamese Muslims seek ethnic tag and reservation

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