Museum depicting ‘Miya’ culture sealed in Assam
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded its closure saying there is no community called Miyas, the term used for Muslim residents of the state with origins in present-day Bangladesh
Authorities in Assam’s Goalpara have sealed a museum depicting the culture of the Miyas, a term used for Muslim residents of the state with origins in present-day Bangladesh, saying the house where it was set up was allotted under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), the Centre’s affordable housing scheme.
The museum at Dapkarbhita in the Goalpara district was sealed two days after it opened on Sunday. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded its closure saying there is no community called the Miyas.
Goalpara deputy commissioner Khanindra Choudhury said the house was allotted in 2018 to All Assam Miya Parishad chairperson Mohor Ali under PMAY but instead of using it as his residence, it was converted into the museum. “Since that is a violation of the provisions of PMAY, we have sealed the house.”
He added houses under PMAY are allotted to the homeless for residential purposes. “Apart from sealing the house, the rural development department has issued a show cause notice to Ali asking him to explain why the house was converted into a museum.”
Ali said if the government had some issues with the items on display, they could have seized them. “But why have they sealed my residence? Where will I stay now? I demand the state government allot land in Guwahati to set up a Miya museum. I will start an indefinite protest until that demand is met.”
The museum showcased primarily agricultural equipment of the people the British brought from present-day Bangladesh to Assam in the late 19th century to encourage farming.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma earlier on Tuesday questioned the authenticity of the items put up on display at the museum. He added the state’s indigenous communities used most of these items.
“All items except the lungi [men’s skirt] belong to the Assamese people. If they are not able to prove that items on display are used only by Miya people, a case will be registered. There is also the question of the source of funding for the museum.”
BJP leader Rupam Goswami said that the museum was an attempt at the appropriation of things indigenous to Assam. He insisted there was no community called the Miyas in the state.
In 2020, Sherman Ali Ahmed, a Congress legislator, asked the government to set up a museum for the Miya community at a centre in Guwahati showcasing Assam’s culture and history. Sarma, who was then a minister, rejected the idea saying the Miyas are not indigenous to Assam