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Monday, November 30, 2020

Bihar, bypoll wins will give BJP an edge in Bengal, Assam: Himanta

According to Sarma, the next election in Assam will be a fight between two cultures and will be on the development work done by the BJP government.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: November 15, 2020 9:28:21 am
Himanta Biswa Sarma. (Express Photo/File)

THE BJP win in Bihar and the bypolls in many states should be seen as a reiteration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Assam’s Health, Education and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

“It’s more vocal now, people’s support for Modi is stronger… and it will create positive psychological effect on Bengal and Assam elections,” he said at an Idea Exchange programme with The Indian Express on Saturday.

In Assam, the Muslims who migrated from Bangladesh in different times, do not vote for BJP, and so the party is not bothered about what is happening to them, Sarma said. But the state will continue its development work, he said.

According to Sarma, the next election in Assam will be a fight between two cultures and will be on the development work done by the BJP government. “In Assam, it’s a fight between two cultures. The so-called migrant Bangladeshi Muslims have created a new dialect — they call it Miya culture, Miya poetry, Miya school etc. It’s no longer a fight between Hindu and Muslims. One culture is propagated by these people. But we have to protect the composite culture of Assam. So it’s a battle for culture.. it’s no longer religious, because

Assamese Muslims are on our side,” Sarma said. Muslims of Bengali-origin are colloquially — and often derogatorily — called ‘Miya’ in Assam. Asked if the BJP is worried about parties like AIMIM which used issues like CAA and NRC in Bihar elections and made unprecedented wins in Muslim-dominated areas, Sarma said his party did not bother about the Muslim community votes in Bihar, where the community constitutes 35 per cent of the population.

“For me, we are not getting any support from these 32 or 31 per cent.. Of course, the Assamese Muslims community will vote for us. But the Muslims who have migrated from Bangladesh in different times, they are not going to vote for the BJP anyway.. so what they think or what they do is.. completely an activity to be noticed by the Congress and AIUDF, not by us,” he said.

“We are sure that we are not going to get any votes.. but we are continuing our development works because the government is for all.. we are not much bothered about what’s happening there,” he said.

Sarma argued that the migrant Muslims in the state have been trying to create a separate culture. “In Assam many have come from different places to Assam and assimilated into the bigger Assamese culture.. . No one tried to create an independent culture,”he said adding that the Muslims who have migrated from what is now Bangladesh tried to do so, but now they “want respect and space within the greater Assamese culture”.

“Here is a community who has distorted our culture and created a language called Mia which you have not heard in anywhere in the world.. it’s not an independent culture.. Everyone knows that Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra. This is a seat for Vaishanav sect but they say their lungi should be allowed there.. it’s basically aggression,” he said.

“What identity you want to assert? If you are an Assamese, then be an Assamese.. why do you need to assert.. which means you want to counter Assamese culture aggressively. By encroaching the land of our monastery what type of identity you want to assert.. we will not allow it,” he said.

Srimanta Sankardeva was a Vaishnavite saint-reformer in Assam who focussed on the spiritual side of religion. He had established the Satra, monasteries central to the religio-cultural movement started by him. The BJP has alleged for long now that the land belonging to Satras are being encroached upon by Bengali-origin Muslim communities in the state.

The Kalakshetra is a prestigious cultural institute in Assam named after Sankardeva.

Sarma was referring to a political controversy in Assam last month over a proposed museum to showcase objects from Assam’s riverine sand belts, which are dominated by Muslims of Bengali-origin. Sarma has threatened to put Congress legislator Sherman Ali Ahmed — whose letter to expedite the foundation of the museum set off the controversy — behind bars for his purported comments of putting a ‘lungi’ in such a museum in Kalakshetra after state elections next year.

Sarma also said the government is at the last stage of closure of 600 Madrasas in Assam, which would turn into general education institutions. He said the Madrasas which allowed the student to score 200 marks on the subject based on the Quran were creating inequality among the students as the others could not score marks on the subjects based on their religious scriptures.

“Only a class of sections are allowed to study their holy book and score. So we had two options- either you allow all others .. but introducing the Bible of the Gita will not be easy as Assam has more small communities in its composite culture. So it is easier to remove the Quran subjects from the schools,” he said adding that the government will introduce modern education in them.

Sarma had said last month that he will shut madrasas through a notification in November. His argument has been that public money should not be used for teaching religious texts. He had told the press in Guwahati last month that the government wants to shut 610-odd madrasas run by the State Madrasa Education Board which costs the government over Rs 260 crore.
— With ABHISHEK SAHA, Guwahati

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