West indian culture

Museum documenting ethnic Bengali Muslim culture sealed, two community leaders arrested


Authorities in Assam’s Goalpara district on Tuesday sealed a museum dedicated to the Miya Muslim community over allegations of misuse of the premises, officials said. Scroll.in.

Two community leaders, including the one who set up the museum, were also arrested on Tuesday evening. They were charged under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to criminal association and collection of arms with intent to wage war against the Government of India. The union.

GP Singh, the Special Director General of Assam Police wrote in a tweet that the two leaders will be questioned about their links to the activities of terrorist groups The Ansarullah Bangla Team and Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent.

Assam police have arrested several people and demolished three madrassas as part of their investigation into the two terrorist groups.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam have demanded the closure of the Miya Museum located at Dapkarbhita in Lakhipur area of ​​Goalpara, reported The Hindu. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had also threatened legal action.

The museum had been set up by Mia Assam Miya Parishad President Mahar Ali and was inaugurated on October 23, according to PTI. It contained antiquated artifacts from the Miya community – marginalized Muslims of Bengali origin from the state who settled in Assam in the late 1890s after being brought over by the British for commercial farming.

In a notice dated October 24, the Goalpara District Rural Development Agency said that the house where the museum was set up was handed over under the central government’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana housing scheme.

However, the establishment of a museum does not fall within the motive and guidelines of the program, the district administration said. Authorities have asked the museum’s management to immediately submit its response to the notice to the block’s local development manager.

Later on Tuesday, Ali and Abdul Baten were taken into custody in a case registered last week at Ghograpar police station in Nalbari district. Three people had been arrested in the case last week, officials said Scroll.in.

Meanwhile, Ali and his two underage sons staged a sit-in protest outside the museum and demanded its reopening, PTI reported.

“We display objects that the community identifies with so that people from other communities can realize that the Miyas are no different from them,” Ali said.

Also read: From history to lungis: How this Assam politician is fighting for a distinct Miya Muslim identity

Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, Chief Minister Sarma had questioned the motive for establishing the museum as he said the artifacts represented Assamese culture in general, and nothing specific to the Miya community, reported Northeast Live.

“They have to prove to the government that nangol [plough] is only used by Miya people and no others…otherwise the case will be registered,” he quoted ANI as saying.

BJP MP for Dibrugarh in eastern Assam Prasanta Phukan previously said the museum should be “dismantled”. The Hindu reported Tuesday.

Former BJP MP Shiladitya Dev demanded that the museum be closed immediately and that Assam be saved from “Bangladesh Muslims”, News18 reported.

The museum was proposed by Congressman Sherman Ali Ahmed in 2020. He had asked the state government to locate it at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, a center in Guwahati showcasing the state’s cultural heritage.

The museum would reflect the culture and heritage of the communities living in the char-chaporis (sandbanks or river islands) of Assam, he said.

Sarma, who was the state’s health and education minister at the time, said he would not allow such a “Distortion” of culture.

“As far as I know, there is no distinct identity and culture in Char Anchal from Assam as most people had migrated from Bangladesh,” Sarma tweeted in 2020. “Obviously to Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakhetra, who is the epitome of Assamese culture. , we will not allow any distortion.

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