Nashya Shaikh

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The Nashya Shaikh or Nashya Sekh are a Muslim community found in the state of West Bengal in India. A small number are also found in the neighbouring state of Bihar, where they are known as the Bengali Shaikh. They are also known as Rajbonghsi Muslim or Uttar Bangis Muslim. The Nashya are considered to be an important indigenous group found in north West Bengal.[1]

Origin[edit]

The Nashyas trace their origin to the indigenous communities of north West Bengal, such as the Rajbongshi and Mech. There conversion to Islam is said to have taken over two to three centuries, and the Nashya still retain many cultural traits of their pre-Islamic past. From historic evidence, it seems a segment of the indigenous population of north Bengal converted started to convert to Islam when the region fell under the control of Bakhtiyar Khilji. Some of the earliest converts were the chiefs Ali Mach and Kala Pahar. Tradition also ascribes the conversion of several lineages to Sufi saints such as Torsa Pir, Pagla Pir, Shah Fakir Sahib and Shah Gari Sahib.[2]

Present circumstances[edit]

The Nashya were at one time substantial landowners, generally known as jotedars. Below this class was a substantial strata of medium sized peasants. With the indepemdence of India in 1947, the larger estates were broken up. The community's contribution to the agriculture of north West Bengal is substantial, with the Nashya growing jute, tobacco, and rice.[3]

The Nashya as a community are strictly endogamous. They are further divided into leneages such as Bepari, Pramanik, Sarcar and Sekh. Easch of these lineage groups intermarry. The community is Sunni, and speak Bengali. They concentrated in the districts of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Dinajpur (north and south) and Malda. They are also found in the neighbouring Purnia Division of Behar, where they are known as Bengali Shaikh.

The community have set up their own political and cultural organization, the Uttar Bango Angrassar Muslim Sangram Samiti, which acts as pressure group for this community. Politically, they are the strongest pillar of support to the Congress Party in Maldah and Uttar Dinajpur.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 74-89
  2. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 74-89
  3. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 74-89