Guwahati: Hours before Assam police detained three people for alleged terror links Tuesday, the district administration in Assam’s Goalpara sealed a Miya museum in the area. One of those detained included the person in whose house the museum had been set up.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma questioned the cultural context of the museum saying, “I don’t understand what is this museum. The material which has been placed there belongs to the Assamese people except for the lungi (a garment worn by men in many parts of the Indian subcontinent). They have placed a Nangol (a tool used to plow land), fishing equipment there, but our scheduled caste people have used these traditional types of equipment for decades after decades. What is new in there except (the) lungi?”
He added: “If they set up Miya Museum by using the tools, and types of equipment of Assamese people, then a case will be registered.”
The CM also said that they (not only the Asom Miya Parishad, but people supporting it) will have to prove before the government that, the Nangol is only used by the Miya people, not others.
In 2020, former Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed had proposed that a museum housing Miya artifacts be built in Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, an iconic cultural centre in Guwahati named after the neo-Vaishnavite saint Sankaradeva.
The Assam government had, however, rejected the proposal at the time.
Following Tuesday’s action against the museum, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president, Bhupen Kumar Borah, said that the party “doesn’t support a Miya museum”.
“There is no community called the Miyas in Assam… It’s just a section of people who have been left feeling alienated by the policies of the BJP and the RSS,” he said.
The term Miya in Assam pejoratively refers to a community of descendants of migrants who moved to the state from the erstwhile East Bengal. The Miya Museum was inaugurated in Goalpara’s Lakhipur area Sunday.
On Tuesday, not only did the Goalpara district administration seal the museum, but Assam police detained three people — Mohar Ali, president of the Asom Miya Parishad, Abdul Baten, general secretary of the Asom Miya Parishad and Tanu Dhadumia, who had briefly been linked with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) during the Namrup municipal board elections in February, for allegedly harbouring links to the banned al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Ansarullah Bangla Team, a proscribed group in Bangladesh.
The now-sealed Miya Museum had been set up in a room of Ali’s house.
The special director general of Assam police G.P. Singh said in a tweet that Ali and Baten were detained under sections 120(b) (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging or abetting to wage war against the government of India), 121 (A) (conspires to overawe, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and two sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Sri Mohar Ali of Goalpara & Sri Abdul Baten of Dhubri have been detained in connection with Ghograpar PS Case no.163/22, U/S- 120(B)/121/121(A)/122 IPC , R/W-Sec -10/13 UA(P) Act. Further investigation and interrogation would be carried out about their association with AQIS/ABT.
— GP Singh (@gpsinghips) October 25, 2022
The three detainees are currently being kept in Ghograpar Police Station in Nalbari district, but Nalbari superintendent of police, Pabindra Kumar Nath, refused to comment on evidence linking the three to the AQIS and ABT, and said, “We cannot reveal everything. They have just arrived here and will undergo interrogation.”
Controversy over the museum
Talking Talking to ThePrint on the museum, Goalpara seputy commissioner, Khanindra Choudhury alleged, “It was sealed because this house where the museum was being run had been allotted under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). It was supposedly being run as a museum, which is in violation of the rules.”
Earlier Tuesday, Ali told reporters, “I do cultural research in one of my rooms. If the government has any objection, they can seize the items. But I am sad that they have now made me homeless.”
Meanwhile, the museum has started a political controversy in the state, with the opposition hitting out at the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government in the state over the issue.
“We have never made such a demand for a Miya museum but in that area the literacy rate of the Muslims is not higher than 40-50 per cent, the focus should be only on building schools and libraries,” said Rafiqul Islam, MLA and general secretary of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
Islam added that the case against the three detainees should be investigated properly and putting a “criminal conspiracy” charge was “not good”.
AAP’s national council member and in-charge of the party’s affairs in Assam, Rajesh Sharma, said meanwhile that “A Museum cannot be made by an individual or organisation. It is based on archaeological fact etc. If a community wants a specific museum that should be showcased in the state museum itself”.
The CM on the other hand told reporters that the government will be probing the funding of the Miya museum.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)