Islam in Assam
There are 10.7 million Muslims in the Indian state of Assam, forming over 34% of its population. Islam came to Assam in the 13th century, before the Ahom invasion of the region. A number of Bengali-speaking immigrants have also arrived in Assam since the colonial days.
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.
In 1613, the Mughals annexed Koch Hajo (now part of Western Assam) briefly. 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.
In 1630, a Muslim saint named Shah Milan popularly known as Ajan Fakir came from Baghdad, the present capital city of Iraq to Assam. He preached the local population about Islam and as a result many of them had entered into the fold of Islam and became his disciples. His mausoleum is present in Sahoguri Chapori in Sibsagar district of Assam.
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. 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.
- These are descended from the captured Muslim soldiers, who came with the armies of Khilji (1206) and Turbak of Gaur (1532).
Migration during the British era
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 the 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 immigrants.
Early establishments were in the Goalpara district, mostly in the char (riverine) lands and reserved forests. These Muslim migrants were known as "Miyas", 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 Gaur region were also known as Gariyas.
Assam has a substantial number of indigenous Muslims, but there have been concerns that illegal immigration from the 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 Assam Movement (1979-1985). In 1983, around 2000 Bengali-speaking Muslims were killed in the Nellie massacre.
In 2001, there were 6 Muslim-majority in the Assam district. By 2011, this number had increased to 9.
|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|
The Assamese Muslims are 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 Assamese Muslims are agrarian in nature and depend on agriculture for their subsistence.
Notable Assamese Muslims
- Bagh Hazarika
- Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the only Assamese president of India
- Anwara Taimur, the only woman chief minister of Assam
- Dr. Moidul Islam Bora, the first Assamese doctorate
- Muhammed Saadulah, the only Assamese member of the drafting committee of the constituent assembly of India
- Fardina Adil, the first Assamese woman IAS officer
- 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
- Dr Hafiz Ahmed, Writer
- 2011 Census Data: Assam.
- "Assam: Religion and Caste". Government of Assam. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
- Muhammad Mojlum Khan (2013). The Muslim Heritage of Bengal. Kube. p. 18. ISBN 9781847740625.
- D. Nath (1989). History of the Koch Kingdom, C. 1515-1615. Mittal. p. 9. ISBN 9788170991090.
- Sanjib Baruah (1999). India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780812234916.
- 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.
- N. S. Saksena (1985). Terrorism History and Facets: In the World and in India. Abhinav Publications. p. 165. ISBN 978-81-7017-201-7.
- Census 2011 data rekindles ‘demographic invasion’ fear in Assam
- Memory and forgetting in Nellie
- Muslim majority districts in Assam up
- Population by religious communities, 2001 Census of India