Assam recognises native status of 40L Assamese-speaking Muslims | India News

GUWAHATI: The Assam cabinet recognised Tuesday around 40 lakh Assamese-speaking Muslims of the state as “indigenous Assamese Muslims” and a sub-group of the greater native Assamese community.
These people do not have any history of migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
This group was earlier loosely known as “indigenous Muslims”, but did not have any official recognition. The BJP-led state government’s approval makes a clear distinction between native Muslims and Bangladesh-origin Bengali-speaking immigrant Muslims, comprising most of the state’s Muslim population.
Assam has the highest proportion of Muslims after Lakshadweep and J&K. The 2011 Census states that out of Assam’s total population, Muslims account for over 34%, of whom just a little over 37% are native Assamese-speaking Muslims.
The cabinet decision has also recognised the long aspiration of Assamese-speaking Muslims for whom their identity as native Assamese preceded their religious identity.
Cabinet minister Keshab Mahanta said, “The cabinet has approved a new nomenclature for five Muslim groups — Goria, Moria, Jolah (only the ones living in tea gardens), Desi and Syed (only the Assamese-speaking). They will henceforth be known as indigenous Assamese Muslims.”
The cabinet note says, “This move will ensure their development in health, cultural identity, education, financial inclusion, skill development and women empowerment.”
The Assam Minorities Development Board had proposed a new nomenclature to recognise the ethnicity of the Assamese-speaking Muslim pollution in 2020. “There was no official definition of who is an indigenous Assamese,” said board chairman Muminul Aowal.
This group of Muslims trace their lineage to the 15th century and the majority of them took to Islam by conversion between 13th and 17th centuries and none of these groups can be called migrant Muslims. The Gorias and Morias worked for the Ahom kings and the Desis were originally Koch-Rajbongshis who converted to Islam. Muslims among the people brought by the British from the Chota Nagpur plateau to work in tea gardens are known as Jolha.
The migrant Bengali-speaking Muslims, comprising more than 63% of the state’s total Islamic people, have been the block around which electoral battles have been fought in the state. The Assamese-speaking Muslims have neither been the deciding factor in any election nor the beneficiaries of government funds for minorities because of their numbers.
The recognition given to native Assamese Muslims assumes significance as the state government has set up a high-powered committee to recommend measures to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which offers “to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”. The committee has also been authorised to define who an Assamese is.
The Janagosthiya Samannay Parishad, Assam (JSPA), is also carrying out the first-ever headcount of Assamese Muslims for distinguishing them from their migrant, Bangladesh-origin or Bengali-speaking counterparts.

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