Islam in Assam

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Panbari Mosque is the oldest mosque 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.[1]

History[edit]

The Muslims first came to Assam in the early 13th century, when Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji led an army to eastern India in 1205.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[6] His mausoleum is present in Saraguri Chapori in Assam's Sivasagar district.

British Raj[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8]

Early establishments were in the Goalpara district, mostly in the char (riverine) lands and reserved forests.[7] 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.[2]

After the Government of India Act 1935, a Legislative Assembly was established in Assam in 1937. The Muslim League, led by Muhammed Saadulah, formed a minority government in the state.[8]

Independence[edit]

After the Sylhet referendum in 1947, the Muslim-majority Sylhet region went to East Pakistan while some Muslim-majority areas such as Karimganj went to Assam, India.[9][10]

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).[11] In 2001, there were 6 Muslim-majority districts in the state of Assam. By 2011, this number had increased to 9.[12] However, these numbers have declined in recent years.[13]

Ethnicity[edit]

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:[2]

Syed
The Syeds claim descent from Muhammad. In 17th century, a Syed Muslim saint Ajan Fakir came to Assam and promoted Islam.
Shaikh
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.

Ujani

The people of Dhubri,Goalpara,South Salmara who refer themselves as Deshi.

Maria
These are descended from the captured Muslim soldiers, who came with the armies of Khilji (1206) and Turbak of Gaur (1532).
Miah
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.[14]

Human Rights issues[edit]

Bengali Muslims in Assam have faced repeated and increased Islamophobic attacks.[14] In 1983, around 2000 Bengali-speaking Muslims were killed in the Nellie massacre.[15]

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.[13][16]

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."[17] There are reports of Islamists entering Assam as refugees and then perpetuating violence and terrorist activities as insurgents.[18]

Population[edit]

Muslim population of Assam (present-day boundaries)[2]
Year Muslim Population Increase  % Increase
1901 503,670
1911 634,101 130,431 25.9%
1921 880,426 246,325 38.25%
1931 1,279,388 398,962 45.31%
1941 1,696,978 417,590 32.64%
1951 1,995,936 298,958 17.62%
1961 2,765,509 769,573 38.56%
1971 3,594,006 828,497 29.96%
1991* 6,373,204 2,779,198 77.33%
2001[19] 8,240,611 1,867,407 29.30%
2011[1] 10,679,345 2,438,734 29.59%

* Variation for two decades (1971–1991). In 1981, census was not conducted in Assam due to disturbed conditions resulting from insurgency.

Population by district[edit]

Below is a breakdown of the Muslim population by district in the Indian state of Assam according to the 2011 Census of India: [1]

# District Total population Muslim population Percentage
1 Baksa 950,075 135,750 14.29%
2 Barpeta 1,693,622 1,198,036 70.74%
3 Bongaigaon 738,804 371,033 50.22%
4 Cachar 1,736,617 654,816 37.71%
5 Chirang 482,162 109,248 22.66%
6 Darrang 928,500 597,392 64.34%
7 Dhemaji 686,133 13,475 1.96%
8 Dhubri 1,949,258 1,553,023 79.67%
9 Dibrugarh 1,326,335 64,526 4.86%
10 Dima Hasao 214,102 4,358 2.04%
11 Goalpara 1,008,183 579,929 57.52%
12 Golaghat 1,066,888 90,312 8.46%
13 Hailakandi 659,296 397,653 60.31%
14 Jorhat 1,092,256 54,684 5.01%
15 Kamrup 1,517,542 601,784 39.66%
16 Kamrup Metropolitan 1,253,938 151,071 12.05%
17 Karbi Anglong 956,313 20,290 2.12%
18 Karimganj 1,228,686 692,489 56.36%
19 Kokrajhar 887,142 252,271 28.44%
20 Lakhimpur 1,042,137 193,476 18.57%
21 Morigaon 957,423 503,257 52.56%
22 Nagaon 2,823,768 1,563,203 55.36%
23 Nalbari 771,639 277,488 35.96%
24 Sivasagar 1,151,050 95,553 8.30%
25 Sonitpur 1,924,110 350,536 18.22%
26 Tinsukia 1,327,929 48,373 3.64%
27 Udalguri 831,668 105,319 12.66%
Assam (Total) 31,205,576 10,679,345 34.22%

Society[edit]

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.[20]

Notable Assam Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 2011 Census Data: Assam.
  2. ^ a b c d "Assam: Religion and Caste". Government of Assam. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Muhammad Mojlum Khan (2013). The Muslim Heritage of Bengal. Kube. p. 18. ISBN 9781847740625. 
  4. ^ D. Nath (1989). History of the Koch Kingdom, c. 1515 – 1615. Mittal. p. 9. ISBN 9788170991090. 
  5. ^ Sanjib Baruah (1999). India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780812234916. 
  6. ^ a b Das, Bhuban Mohan (1987-01-01). The Peoples of Assam. Gyan Publishing House. p. 42. ISBN 9788121200936. 
  7. ^ a b Jayashree Roy (2003). Decentralisation Of Primary Education in the Autonomous District Council of Karbi Anglong - Assam (PDF). National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration. p. 10. 
  8. ^ a b N. S. Saksena (1985). Terrorism History and Facets: In the World and in India. Abhinav Publications. p. 165. ISBN 978-81-7017-201-7. 
  9. ^ Chowdhury, Dewan Nurul Anwar Husain. "Sylhet Referendum, 1947". en.banglapedia.org. Banglapedia. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  10. ^ "Recovering Sylhet - Himal Southasian". himalmag.com. Himal Southasian. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Census 2011 data rekindles 'demographic invasion' fear in Assam | india | Hindustan Times". hindustantimes.com. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  12. ^ "Muslim majority districts in Assam up - Times of India". timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Roy, Sandip (16 August 2012). "The illegal Bangladeshi immigrant: Do the bogeyman numbers add up" (1). Firstpost. Firstpost. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Andre, Aletta; Kumar, Abhimanyu (23 December 2016). "Protest poetry: Assam's Bengali Muslims take a stand". Aljazeera. Aljazeera. Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  15. ^ "Memory and forgetting in Nellie - Livemint". livemint.com. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  16. ^ Deka, Dr. Kaustubh (3 June 2014). "BJP leaders warn illegal Bangladeshis to leave, but census figures refute the myth of large-scale infiltration Rate of growth of Assam's population has been declining since 1971" (1). Scroll.in. Scroll.in. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  17. ^ Jayasekera, Deepal. "Modi reiterates pledge to expel "Bangladeshi" Muslims in wake of communal massacre". World Socialist Website. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  18. ^ "Jihadis entering India, warns Bangladesh - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  19. ^ Population by religious communities, 2001 Census of India
  20. ^ "Identify us by our ethnicity and not by religion, Assam Muslims say - Times of India". timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 30 May 2016.