Assam CM Mandates Criteria for Indigenous Status of Bangladesh-Origin Muslims

Assam CM emphasized that for the Miya community to gain recognition in Assam, adherence to specific cultural norms and practices is essential.
Assam CM Mandates Criteria for Indigenous Status of Bangladesh-Origin Muslims
Assam CM Mandates Criteria for Indigenous Status of Bangladesh-Origin MuslimsRepresentative Image

Assam's Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday outlined prerequisites for acknowledging Bengali-speaking Bangladeshi Muslims, commonly referred to as 'Miya', as indigenous inhabitants of the state. His statements follow the recent implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Sarma emphasized that for the Miya community to gain recognition in Assam, adherence to specific cultural norms and practices is essential. These include limiting family size to two children, refraining from polygamy, and preventing the marriage of underage daughters.

Addressing the issue, Sarma stated, "Whether 'Miyas' are considered indigenous or not is a separate matter. What we propose is that if they strive to be 'indigenous', we have no objections. However, they must renounce practices such as child marriage and polygamy, and promote female education."

Furthermore, he stressed the importance of respecting Assamese cultural values and expressed concerns over encroachments on 'satras' (Vaishnavite monasteries) land by certain groups.

Sarma highlighted the significance of educational priorities, urging the Miya community to opt for fields such as medicine and engineering over traditional madrassas. He also emphasized educating daughters and ensuring their inheritance rights over paternal properties.

The BJP-led government in Assam, under Sarma's leadership, has taken decisive measures against child marriage, with numerous arrests and cases registered in this regard. Sarma had previously stated that the BJP would not seek the votes of the Miya community for the next decade unless they reform practices like polygamy and child marriage.

The Bengali-speaking Muslim population, originating from Bangladesh, had settled in various parts of Assam, significantly influencing electoral outcomes in numerous constituencies. However, in Assam, both Hindu and Muslim Bengali-speaking immigrant communities are perceived as settlers.

The BJP distanced itself from Bangladeshi Miya Muslims while attempting to appeal to Assamese Muslims. In 2022, the state cabinet officially recognized around 40 lakh Assamese-speaking Muslims as "indigenous Assamese Muslims," distinguishing them from Bangladeshi immigrants.

According to reports, Assamese-speaking indigenous Muslims constitute 37% of the total Muslim population, with the remaining 63% being Miyas.

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