Guwahati: After the authorities sealed the so-called Miya Museum in Assam’s Goalpara district in October last, the related controversy that had erupted in the state also subsided. An international news site from the UK BBC November 28 last posted an article on its website that can be seen as a bid at raking up a settled controversy. The report presented by Dilip Kumar Sarma in Assam and Zoya Mateen in Delhi, quoting a scholar Dr Hafiz Ahmad, questions how a community can exist without its culture. Claims that the Miya community, after years of persecution, were trying to carve out their own space by setting up the museum. However, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma said last month that the Miya community is a fictitious identity and the museum did not showcase any culture.
Assam Miya Parishad Chairman Mohor Ali set up the Miya museum on the premises of a house allotted to him under the Prime Minister’s housing scheme PMAY at Dapkabhita under Lakipur police station in Goalpara district. Former Congress MLA Sherman Ali mooted a proposal for setting up such a museum in 2020, and he wrote a letter to the museum director urging him for its establishment at the Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakhetra in the heart of Guwahati. Interestingly, the BBC report nowhere mentions that the house where the museum came up was allotted under PM’s housing scheme, instead describes it as Mohor Ali’s house at a hamlet. He spent Rs 7,000 to establish the museum and was arrested with two others for alleged relations with Islamic terror agents.
Meanwhile, a local daily in Guwahati reported allegations of tampering in the name of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) beneficiaries in the Bagodi village panchayat of the Barpeta development block. For instance, the father’s name of the beneficiary Asiya Begum of the panchayat, is Rajmitra Gogoi. Similarly, Mohit Gogoi’s name is mentioned as the father and husband of several beneficiaries like Zahoora Sikdar, Maynal Haque, Majeda Begum, Ajufa Begum etc. Rajmitra Gogoi’s name has also cropped up against the father’s names of Saleha Begum, Jamiran Nessa, Hanufa Begum and Liaquat Dewan. Barpeta Police is investigating the allegations. BBC, while conveniently forgetting the status of Miya Museum premises, nor examining the question of whether it could turn a house allowed for the residential purpose into a museum, portrays the BJP government’s decision to seal the museum as another instance of discrimination against Muslims.
In its bid to estimate the worth and significance of the items in the museum, the world news portal quotes a prominent Muslim leader. There are more than nine million Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam and Miya Museum, set up in a small room, housed a few traditional agricultural tools, fishing gear made of bamboo and a Gamosa, the traditional hand-woven garment, and all these are part of the culture of Miya people.’
An earlier report in the national media said that investigation into the setting up of the Miya Museum has reportedly revealed some sensational details. According to Assam Police sources, the museum has been found to have links with terror outfits Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT). The AQIS and ABT reportedly funded the setting up the private museum in the Goalpara district of Assam. The museum founder had allegedly received Rs 10,000 from AQIS and ABT to establish the facility, police sources added.
GP Singh, then Special Director General of Assam Police, said that arrested Miya Parishad president Mohar Ali, the founder of Miya Museum, had approached ABT operatives for funds to set up the museum. He added that arrested AQIS and ABT operatives had revealed this.
Contrarily, BBC maintains ‘since coming to power in 2016. The BJP has rallied its vote base of Hindus and tribal communities by announcing policies that critics say are discriminatory towards Muslims’ and adds that ‘several politicians, including the current Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, have also targeted them in speeches.’