Islam in Assam
Islam is the second largest majority religion in Assam. Islam is also fastest growing religion in Assam according to 2011 census report. According to the 2011 census, there were 10,679,345 Muslims in the Indian state of Assam, forming over 34.22% of its population. Muslims are majority in almost 9 districts of Assam according to 2011 census.
The Muslims first came to Assam in the early 13th century, when Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji led an army to eastern India in 1205. A chieftain of the Mech tribe embraced Islam at the invitation of Khilji, and adopted the name Ali Mech. He guided Khilji's army through the region known as Kamarupa during the expedition. Islam became popularised in the Barak Valley with the arrival of the Sufi Shah Jalal and his disciples in the early 14th century. A large part of the valley came under the Bengal Sultanate. Since then Muslims continue to play important in all walks of life in Assam.
In 1613, the Mughals briefly annexed Koch Hajo, in present day western Assam. They also ruled Goalpara (as a part of their Bengal Subah), but could not subdue the other parts of Assam. The Mughal soldiers who were taken as prisoners of wars by the Assamese kingdoms were later assimilated by the local population, but maintained their Islamic beliefs and worked as brass metal workers.
In 1630, a Muslim saint named Shah Miran, popularly known as Ajan Fakir, came from Baghdad, the present capital city of Iraq, to Assam. He preached to the local population about Islam and as a result many converted to Islam and became his disciples. His mausoleum is present in Saraguri Chapori in Assam's Sivasagar district.
The British East India Company had established its rule in the neighbouring Bengal region after the Battle of Plassey in 1757. When Assam came under colonial rule, the British brought with them a number of Bengali settlers. These Bengalis encouraged other Bengalis to settle in Assam for economic reasons. The fertile land of Assam attracted a number of landless peasants from East Bengal, nearly 85% of whom were Muslims. The tea planters and Marwari businessmen, who needed workers, also welcomed the migrants.
Early establishments were in the Goalpara district, mostly in the char (riverine) lands and reserved forests. Some of these Muslim migrants were known as "Miahs", and most of them have assimilated with the indigenous Muslims. Since many of them came from the Mymensingh district, they were sometimes referred to as "Mymenshingia". The Muslim migrants from the Gaud region were also known as Gariyas.
Assam has a substantial number of indigenous Muslims, but there have been concerns that illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh has contributed to a sharp rise in the Muslim population of Assam. This fear of "demographic invasion" by Bangladeshi Muslims has been a political issue in Assam since the days of the Assam Movement (1979–1985). In 2001, there were 6 Muslim-majority districts in the state of Assam. By 2011, this number had increased to 9. However, these numbers have declined in recent years.
Although the Muslims of Assam did not identify with any caste, they had caste-like divisions based on family ancestry (e.g. Syed, Mughal, Pathan and Sheikh) and functional sections (e.g. Goria, Maria, Mahinial and Jalaha). In order of traditional social status, the ancestral groups include:
- The Syeds claim descent from Muhammad. In 17th century, a Syed Muslim saint Ajan Fakir came to Assam and promoted Islam.
- This section is formed by the descandants of invading Muslim soldiers who married local Assamese girls, some of whose relatives also converted to Islam.They follow mainly hanafi school of jurisdiction.They are of indo-aryan origin.
The people of Dhubri,Goalpara,South Salmara who refer themselves as Deshi.
- These are descended from the captured Muslim soldiers, who came with the armies of Khilji (1206) and Turbak of Gaur (1532).
- These are descended of local indigenous Australoid-Dravidian people who converted to Islam.They are based on agriculture,fishing and jute cultivation. However it is also used as a racial epithet for Bengali Muslims.
Human Rights issues
During the 2012 Assam violence there was widespread attacks on Bengali Muslim populations. Indian Hindu nationalist politicians have accused Bangladesh of trying to expand its territory by ostensibly promoting illegal immigration. However, Indian government census reports note a decline in immigration from Bangladesh between 1971 and 2011.
The response to the alleged illegal migration by Bangladeshis in India has seen double standards. In 2014 Narendra Modi, the then Prime minister hopeful threatened to expel all "illegal Bangladeshis" but made a distinction between Bengali Hindus and Muslims. Modi remarked that "those who are forced to flee Bangladesh and are sons of mother India, love the nation, worship (the Hindu goddess) Ma Durga.....they will be protected and given the same status as other sons of mother India. But illegal Bangladeshi migrants, who are being brought to India in the name of vote-bank politics, will have to go back to Bangladesh." There are reports of Islamists entering Assam as refugees and then perpetuating violence and terrorist activities as insurgents.
|Year||Muslim Population||Increase||% Increase|
* Variation for two decades (1971–1991). In 1981, census was not conducted in Assam due to disturbed conditions resulting from insurgency.
Population by district
|#||District||Total population||Muslim population||Percentage|
Though Assam Muslims follow all rules and obligations of islam they are still probably one of the least orthodox Muslim communities of entire Asia. They follow many Hindu customs and take part in Hindu festivals. In fact, the day-to-day rituals of this community resemble the customs of the other local tribes and communities of Assam. A majority of the Assam Muslims are agrarian in nature and depend on agriculture for their subsistence.
Notable Assam Muslims
- Bagh Hazarika
- Maidul Islam Borah(1st Assamese, Doctor of philosophy,Ph.D.from London University)
- Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the only Assamese president of India
- Anwara Taimur, the only woman chief minister of Assam
- Muhammed Saadulah, the only Assamese member of the drafting committee of the constituent assembly of India
- Parveen Sultana, Padma Bhushan vocalist
- Abu Nechim, the first Assamese IPL cricketer
- Mafizuddin Ahmed Hazarika, writer
- Imran Shah, writer
- Syed Abdul Malik, writer
- Zerifa Wahid, actor
- Adil Hussain, actor
- Zahangir Alom-[], Physist
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