Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has threatened to jail Congress legislator Sherman Ali Ahmed for his purported remarks on a proposed museum after state elections next year.
Sarma had earlier rejected Ahmed’s suggestion to the Director of Museums requesting him to “expedite” the process of establishing “one museum reflecting the culture and heritage of the people living in Char-Chaporis of Assam in the premises of the Srimanata Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati”—as recommended by an MLA panel.
“Char-Chaporis” refer to the riverine sand belts of the Brahmaputra that are populated mostly by Muslims of Bengali-origin, a community which is colloquially—and disparagingly—referred to as “miya” in Assam. The Kalakshetra is a cultural institute named after Vaishnavite reformer Sankardev.
At a press conference Saturday, Sarma accused Ahmed of commenting in the media that he wanted to exhibit a “blue-coloured lungi” in the proposed museum. A vast majority of Bengali-speaking Muslim men residing in rural Assam are known to wear the lungi, a colourful wraparound used as a lower garment.
“He could have said that he wants to showcase fishing equipment or some special boat… Let our government come again after elections, Sherman Ali will be put behind bars, unless he publicly apologise. I won’t do that now, as it will become political and he will get more votes,” Sarma said.
On October 24, Sarma tweeted Ahmed’s letter, saying “there is no separate identity and culture in Char Anchal as most of the people had migrated from Bangladesh”.
Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora has written to Ahmed urging him to exercise restraint while commenting on the issue.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha wrote a letter to CM Sarbananda Sonowal saying a ‘Bengali Museum’ should be established at Kalakshetra to showcase exhibits of the Bengali community of the state.
Sarma on Saturday said Purkayastha does not represent Assam’s Bengali Hindu community, and that the Kalakshetra is a seat for Vaishnavite heritage.
‘Will begin boundary talks once we return to power’
Guwahati: Solving the inter-state border issues in the Northeast is the top priority of the Union Home Ministry and the process will ensue soon after the Assam elections early next year, Sarma said Saturday. “Once we return to power, immediately negotiations and discussions will begin,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines