Museum on migrant Muslims in Assam sealed, owner detained for suspected terror links
The museum, which opened on Sunday, was made by suspended government school teacher Mohar Ali in his house in Dapkarbhita locality of Lakhipur town, allotted under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
A museum in Assam’s Goalpara district showcasing the culture of Muslims who migrated to the state from present-day Bangladesh was sealed on Tuesday and the owner of the premises was detained on suspicion of terror links.
The museum, which opened on Sunday, was made by suspended government school teacher Mohar Ali in his house in Dapkarbhita locality of Lakhipur town. The house was allotted to him under the Centre’s flagship housing scheme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
Early on Tuesday, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma hit out at the museum saying most of the items on display were used by the state’s indigenous communities.
Later in the day, district authorities sealed the museum stating that it was a violation of PMAY provisions. Late on Tuesday, the state police detained Ali for suspected links to Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a Bangladesh-based terror outfit.
“Mohar Ali of Goalpara and 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,” Special DGP (Law and Order) GP Singh tweeted. A police officer familiar with the matter said Ali is suspected of having links with Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a Bangladesh-based terror outfit.
“The house had been allotted in 2018 to a person called Mohar Ali under PMAY. But instead of using it as a residence, it was converted to a museum. Since that violates provisions of PMAY, we have sealed the house,” said Goalpara deputy commissioner Khanindra Choudhury.
“Houses under PMAY are allotted to homeless persons for residential purpose. 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 to a museum,” he added.
Ali said the state government’s move had left him without a home. “I had been allotted the house as per rules. 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?” he asked.
“I demand the state government to allot 11 bighas of land in Guwahati to set up a Miya museum. I will start an indefinite protest until that demand is met,” he told journalists after the museum was sealed.
The term ‘Miyas’ refers to the Bengali Muslim community with origins in present-day Bangladesh. They were brought to the country by the British in late 19th century and subsequently, they settled and took up farming. Members of the community, including those who entered Assam prior to creation of Bangladesh in 1971, are Indian citizens.
“All items except the lungi (a men’s garment) belong to 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 source of funding for the museum,” Sarma had told reporters.
State BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami said there was no specific community called Miyas in the state and that the museum was an attempt to appropriate items indigenous to Assam.
The demand for a similar museum in the state is not new. In 2020, Congress legislator Sherman Ali Ahmed had called for a museum to be set up by the state government at the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, a centre in Guwahati showcasing the state’s culture and history.
At that time too, Sarma, who was then the health minister, rejected the demand, saying “Miyas” weren’t indigenous to Assam.