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Indian Society

A panel set up by the Assam government has recommended a notification for identifying Assamese Muslims as a distinct, indigenous community and undertaking a census to document them.

The panel comprising seven sub-committees also sought a separate directorate or authority for Assamese Muslims for documenting the members of the community and providing each of them with a certificate or identity card. The objective is to not club them with Bengali-speaking or Bengal-origin Muslims often viewed as “illegal migrants” or “Bangladeshis”.

The sub-committees had encapsulated their recommendations in a report submitted to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on April 21. The panel also recommended recognising each of the five sub-groups of Assamese Muslims — Syied, Goriya, Moria, Deshi and Julha — in the notification.

“A provision similar to Article 333 of the Indian Constitution may be enacted to provide a representation of Assamese Muslims in Parliament and Assam Legislative Assembly,” the panel said, advocating the creation of a legislative council in Assam and the reservation of a specific number of seats for Assamese Muslims in it.

“The Assam government may undertake a census to identify and document the Assamese Muslims,” the panel said, recommending the enforcement of a population policy, measures to preserve, and develop and promote historical sites and monuments associated with the community.

The panel further recommended that women of the community should be free to discard social subjugation and must not be coerced into wearing the hijab, niqab or burqa.

Mr. Sarma said the State government would formulate plans for implementing the recommendations “for achieving socio-economic and academic empowerment of the indigenous Assamese Muslim community in Assam”.

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