Proposal to set up museum for Muslims in Assam sparks debate


GUWAHATI: A Congress MLA’s proposal to set up a museum for the Muslims living in Char Anchal (riverine area) at the famous Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, sparked a debate in Assam with the state’s powerful Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday saying that once the BJP is voted back to power the legislator would be sent to jail.

Sarma told the media that the MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed would not be spared and after the next year’s Assembly elections he would put into the jail if he does not publicly say sorry.

The Minister said that when asked Ahmed what could be displayed in the proposed “Miya Museum” he had replied that “blue lungis” (a garment) would be exhibited.

“You see his audacity. He will not be pardon for making such a rude statement insulting to our revered Vaishnav gurus Sankardeva and Madhavdeva,” said Sarma, who earlier rejected the Congress MLAs’s demand to set up a museum at the famous Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati for the Muslims living Char Anchal (Riverine areas) of Assam.

He said that it could understood if he had said that the museum for the people of “Char Chapori” (Riverine areas) would show fishing kits, fishing nets, music and the Riverine culture of the fishermen but uttering the word “lungi” in connection with the Kalakshetra cannot be accepted in any way.

Congress MP from Barpeta in western Assam Abdul Khaleque and party MLA of North Karimganj (in southern Assam) Kamalakhya De Purkayastha have also demanded that a ‘Bengali Museum’ be set up inside the Kalakshetra and they criticised Sarma.
Assam’s Pradesh Congress President Ripun Bora supporting Ahmed’s proposal for setting up of a museum for the Muslims living Char Anchal, asked him not to make any more statement on the issue.

“You have been repeatedly hammering the same matter which has given BJP and RSS to make serious controversy by dragging the name of our congress party.Your such statement at this critical juncture on the eve of upcoming Assembly election is totally unwanted,” Bora told Ahmed in a letter.

Congress MLA from Baghbar constituency (under Barpeta district), Ahmed, who also belong from the Bengali Muslim community, last week proposed the Assam government to establish the museum for the Muslims living in Char-Chaporis of the state at the famed Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati.

Ahmed in his letter to the Director of Museums in Assam said that one museum reflecting the culture and heritage of the people living in Char-Chaporis of Assam was recently recommended by the Departmentally Related Standing Committee of Assam assembly on Education in its 47th Report on Art and Culture.

Ahmed said that the proposed museum would highlight and reflect the culture and heritage of the people living in Char-Chaporis.

Assam has an estimated 64 lakhs Bengali speaking Muslims out of an estimated over one crore Muslim population in the state. Approximately over 25 Lakh people live in these Char-Chapories (Riverine Islands), majority from again from Bengali Muslim community.

Char’s are Riverine island that dots River Bramhaputra and its tributaries in Assam, mostly in Western Assam where in many areas the Bengali speaking muslims are amajority’ community in terms of population.

In the 2016 Assembly polls in Assam, when the BJP wrested the power from Congress, it undertook an aggressive campaign of protecting the land, community, life, culture and heritage of the indigenous Assamese people.Former President K.R. Narayanan bestowed the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati to the nation on November 9, 1998 as it was set up with a view to preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the people of Assam.

The Kalakshetra was set up as part of the 1985’s Assam Accord and named after the medieval reformer saint.