A new website aims to financially support marriages between the Hindu Bengali and Assamese communities in Assam. ‘Samanvay’(https://samanvayassam.com) — launched on Sunday by the chairman of the Assam Linguistic Minority Development Board (ALMDB) — is a result of the government body’s proposal to “strengthen ties” between the two communities.
“It has come to our notice that several Assamese-Bengali (Hindu) marriages take place here. These couples often face a lot of trouble, opposition from family etc. Thus, we want to give them financial aid — be it Rs 40,000 or Rs 50,000,” said Alok Ghose, Chairman, ALMDB. “We have approached the Chief Minister, the Finance Minister and the Welfare of Minorities and Development Minister with our proposal and are hopeful that it will be included in the State Budget 2020-21.” The Annual State Budget 2020-21 is slated to be tabled on March 4.
However, Welfare of Minorities and Development Minister Ranjit Dutta said he had not received any such proposal yet, and could not comment further.
BJP’s Ghose said he was determined to make this work, with or without the government’s help. “We will raise funds and collect donations if need be,” said Ghose, who has been Chairman of the ALMDB since 2018.
The ALMDB was constituted by the Assam Government in 1996 for the “welfare of the linguistic minority people”.
“The board was defunct for long but since we took over we are actively trying to help linguistic minorities,” he said. Part of Ghose’s proposal includes building 15 statues — these will include one of Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika in Siliguri, and of Assamese literary luminary Lakshminath Bezbaroa and his Bengali wife Pragyasundari Devi, the niece of Rabindranath Tagore.
According to Ghose, to be eligible for financial assistance, the couple has to furnish their income certificate and marriage certificate. “The website has already received a number of registrations in three days,” he claimed, adding that their surveys have already collected data of about 2000 such couples.
Even as BJP Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is believed to have widened the rift between the state’s Assamese and Bengali communities, Ghose said his proposal had “nothing to with CAA or NRC or any politics.” “We thought of it a year back,” he said.
Since the 1960s and 70s, language has been a major fault-line in Assam, leading to several ‘language riots’ in the state. More recently, the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), too, has led to festering of the wound.
Even at this preliminary stage, the proposal has faced flak. “We are very supportive of Bengali-Assamese marriages and there are multiple ways to increase harmony between the two communities — but to tempt couples with money is absolutely wrong,” said Bongaigaon-based Amrit Lal, a Hindu Bengali community leader and member of Sara Asom Bangali Oikyomoncha.
Asked if the proposal included anything to aid the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Assam, Ghose said they would focus on Hindus “for now”.
As per the 2011 Census, Assam had 1.5 crore Assamese and 90 lakh Bengali speakers (48.3 per cent and 28.9 per cent of the population, respectively).
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