The exercise, viewed as ‘mini-NRC’, aims to distinguish three categories of indigenous Muslims from their migrant Bengal-origin counterparts
The Janagosthiya Samannay Parishad, Assam (JSPA) on Thursday launched a portal for conducting the first-ever census of Assamese Muslims for distinguishing them from their migrant, Bengal-origin or Bengali-speaking counterparts.
The JSPA represents three categories of Assamese Muslims — Goriya who converted from various indigenous groups and tribes, Moriya whose ancestors were brought by the Ahom kings to make weapons and utensils and Deshi who converted specifically from the Koch-Rajbongshi community.
The three-month exercise, seen as a small-scale version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), has a cut-off period corresponding with the British annexation of Assam in the early 1800s. The JSPA considers the pre-British rule Muslims of Assam as indigenous, which is why the Jolahas — converts from among tea plantation workers who were brought from central India by British planters — have been kept out of the census.
Released in August 2019, the NRC had excluded 19.06 lakh of 3.3 crore applicants for lack of documents establishing them as the citizens of India. The cut-off period for the NRC was March 24, 1971, as prescribed by the Assam Accord of 1985 for detecting and deporting foreigners or “illegal immigrants”.
“We launched the portal jspacensus.com portal today [April 15] to coincide with the Assamese New Year and hope to complete the exercise by the end of 2021,” JSPA’s chief convenor Syed Mominul Aowal said.
The portal has a list of documents that applicants have to upload for registration. They include voter card, Aadhaar card and PAN of each family member (non-mandatory for minors), a certified copy from village head, municipal board, town committee or any other competent authority as well as a certified copy from JSPA-empanelled organisations listing all members of an applicant’s family.
The portal also lists 17 organisations recognised or empanelled with the JSPA and their phone numbers to be contacted for any issues with registering online. These organisations include Desi Janagostiyo Manch, Assam, Axomiya Muslim Kalyan Parishad, Khilonjiya Axomiya Musolman Unnayan Parishad and Hodow Khilonjiya Muslim Oikyo Manch.
The JSPA has also provided a helpline and the phone numbers of all its affiliate organisations for guiding the indigenous Muslims in getting themselves registered.
“This exercise was necessary as some migrant Muslims have undertaken an initiative to bring all Muslims living in Assam under one umbrella. Our religion and names may be the same but the indigenous Muslims have a distinct identity, given by the Ahom and Koch kings,” Mr. Aowal said.
According to the 2011 census, Muslims account for 34.22% of Assam’s population. The JSPA claims Assam today has about 1.4 crore Muslims, of whom 40 lakh are indigenous Muslims.