The Assamese-speaking Muslims have started distancing themselves from the Bengali-speaking Muslim settlers in Assam, especially after the recent communal clashes in the state.
The Forum of Asomiya Muslims is now even seeking a constitutional shield, as their image has taken a serious hit since the All Assam Students’ Union’s anti-foreigners agitation in 1979. They have very often been bracketed with the migrants and accused of sheltering Bangladeshis due to religious affinity.
“Once an important part of the Assamese society, we are now viewed with suspicion,” Forum spokesman Nekibur Zaman told HT. He thinks the string of jihadi attacks and the Bangladeshi influx have led to this situation.
According to the forum, the migrants’ vote-bank appeal has robbed the ethnic Muslims of all the benefits meant for the minorities. “Political patronage has made them a potent force, encouraging them to hijack what should have been due to us,” Zaman said.
Social worker Sakir Hazarika said, “The definition of minority needs to be changed in Assam. We are, in fact, a deprived minority within the minority community.” He said most minority-related schemes were meant for the migrants.
The forum said the minorities living in Assam for less than 100 years are being appeased while ignoring those with an 800-year-old history in the state.
According to government headcount, of the state’s 2.66-crore population, Muslims account for 82.41 lakh. Of them, 35 lakh are categorised as indigenous Muslims, who began settling in the state since 1202 AD.
Due to drastic demographic changes, Muslims — primarily Bengali-speaking settlers — are now in a majority in eight of Assam’s 27 districts. The neighbouring states are also feeling the heat of influx from Bangladesh, often leading to inter-state standoffs.