Future fear for Assam Muslims

Islam is the second largest religion in Assam. It is also most rapid growing religion in Assam as reported by 2011 census. The 2011 census, the population of Assam is approximately 31,169,272 out of which there were 10,679,345 Muslims in the Indian state of Assam, forming over 34.22 percent of its population. Muslims are majority in nearly 9 districts of Assam as reported by 2011 census. The fertile land of Assam enticed a number of landless peasants from Bengal presidency, at least 85 percent of whom were Muslims. The tea planters and Marwari businessmen, who required workers, also hailed the migrants. Several of them came from the Northeast part of Rangpur and very few of them came from Mymensing, they were sometimes referred to as “Bongya” or Bongali. The Muslim migrants from the Gaud region were also known as Gariyas. After the Sylhet referendum in 1947, the Muslim-majority Sylhet region went to East Pakistan while some Muslim-majority areas such as Karimganj went to Assam, India. Assam has a significant number of native Muslims, but there have been worries that immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh has contributed to a high rise in the Muslim population of Assam. There were 6 Muslim-majority districts in the state of Assam. By 2011, this number had increased to 9. Nevertheless these numbers have declined in recent years.
Born in India 71 years ago, Mohammed Rehat Ali is still in state of shock in a month after his release from a detention camp, battling to throw off a fear for the future shared by Muslims millions under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To stateless people described as “interpret infiltrators” by Modi’s right-hand man has been restricted to the north-eastern state of Assam. The Hindu nationalist party wants to repeat nationwide, scary Muslims, who judges’ states are the real focal point. “I have never expected that I would have to prove my citizenship. I am an Indian citizen, we are born here in Assam and living here for generations,” Ali said. When he was not able to produce the requisite documents, a ‘Foreigners’ Tribunal’ declared him a Bangladeshi and sent him to a detention camp. After three years, his sons secured his release by appealing to a higher court, but only after selling their land and cattle to raise legal fees. Above four million others in the state of 33 million where immigration has been a common topic since British rule – were disrupted a draft “National Register of Citizens” (NRC) last July. They could not prove that they or their parents or grandparents were in Assam before 1971, when millions fled a war in what is now Bangladesh, into India. Those outcast have been able to appeal, but up to two million people could be rejected a final list due at the end of this month. These stateless people now described as “infiltrators” by Modi’s right-hand members. They are Indian citizen, and were born here in Assam and living here for generations. Sona Ullah, a retired Indian army captain was sent to a detention camp in May due to a discrepancy in his papers. Police seized his old uniform and he was only granted interim bail after a hue and cry. Those who fail to make the reduction have to go to one of around 100 ‘Foreigners’ Tribunals’ presently in place. Most of those left off the draft NRC are Muslims, and critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party whose aim is to serve only its fanatics. Some hardliners calling for mass deportations, although Bangladesh has already said it will not take any in. There are currently 938 people in six detention camps. Another with a capacity of 3,000 is set to be constructed, and the Assam government wants another nine, each for 1,000 people. In case if people ejected, becoming effectively stateless could make normal life abnormal. Muslims in Assam say they remember a time when their children played with Hindu youths and people from either faith met each other’s shops. Such intermingling no longer there, in the past two years, and some are frightened and thinking of moving away in case they can afford it. Muslims and Hindus in the past were together in good and bad times. Now Hindus and Muslims are divided. Muslims want to leave this place but can’t really do that. Angry Hindus accused police of failing to stop an illegal practice, and a Hindu mob blocked a highway, threw stones and burned vehicles. Two people were shot and killed which include a police officer.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of being “anti-Bengalis. She asked the BJP party if hilsa fish, Jamdani saree, sandesh and mishti doi, which are originally from Bangladesh, would be branded as “infiltrators or refugees”.Banerjee made the remarks as she escalated her attack on the Centre over the exclusion of four million people in the draft of the National Register of Citizens in Assam. Stating that these four million people are “very much Indians”, she challenged the standards on which they have been excluded. Banerjee said even she would not be able to produce the birth certificate of her parents if the government asks for it. Banerjee has been tirelessly attacking the BJP government at the Centre over the NRC which has excluded names of over four million citizens in Assam in the draft for want of requisite documents. She accused the BJP of being “anti-Bengalis” and “anti-West Bengal”. The BJP must not forget that speaking Bengali is not a crime. It is the fifth most spoken language in the world.

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