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Concern, loathing and emergence of latest minority politics in poll-bound Assam

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KOKRAJHAR/DHUBRI: Sitting inside his dirt-coated, poorly-stocked provision retailer subsequent to a rural highway at Joypur village in Assam’s Kokrajhar district, Akbar Ahmed is reticent in regards to the ongoing state elections. 

“I’m so busy in my store that I’ve had no time to think about it. Let voting day come then I’ll apply my thoughts,” he mentioned as cacophonic traffic-blowing gasoline horns raced previous, kicking up plumes of cough-inducing mud. Just a little later he dropped guard a tad, saying within the 2016 Meeting elections he had voted for the Bodoland Folks’s Entrance, then an alliance accomplice of the Bharatiya Janata Occasion.

Ali-ur-Zaman in Kaziranga is equally circumspect.

Initially from Bongaigaon district in jap Assam, he and his spouse have been operating a dhaba for the previous 4 years on the nationwide freeway that cuts by the rhino sanctuary. “I’ll see, I can’t say something about voting proper now,” he answered in one-liners, suspicious of each query and refusing to even make eye contact. His spouse hemmed and hawed in larger measure: “We’re confused.”

About 350 kms away inside a weather-beaten, tin-roofed tea stall in Bagbari village, Dhubri district, Noor Islam is watching a video on his cellular of the arrest of civil rights activist turned- candidate Akhil Gogoi. In contrast to Akbar and Zaman, Islam shouldn’t be terrified of discussing the elections with a stranger. He declares his help for the Raijor Dal, Gogoi’s new political celebration, and spews venom on the BJP and its native candidate, Ashok Kumar Singhi.

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The tea store proprietor, Usman Moni, in between blowing out betel nut from his paan-stained mouth and tooth each quarter-hour, can be vocal in regards to the polls, the BJP and Singhi, describing the saffron celebration’s nominee as “Hitlerian”.

It’s not obscure why the Muslims of Kokrajhar and Kaziranga had been suspicious whereas these in Dhubri had been open, expansive and even polemical.

‘Assamese Muslims at all times establish themselves as Assamese, not by faith’

Demography explains the contrasting temper.

In response to the 2011 Census, the Bodo-dominated Kokrajhar district has 59.64% Hindus whereas solely 28.44% are Muslims. However in neighbouring Dhubri, Hindus are 19.92% and Muslims 79.67%. Their greater numbers in Dhubri maybe offered them a way of safety, prompting confidence in partaking in a political dialogue.

Curiously, the Muslims of Bagbari and neighbouring Lakhiganj village mentioned they’d voted for the BJP in 2016. Requested why, pat got here Usman’s reply: “As a result of they promised parivartan (change).”

Two issues are clear from this: firstly, the characterisation of the Muslims being anti- BJP could also be misplaced as many had voted for it the final time. Secondly, the narrative of Muslims being a captive voting bloc of both the Congress or the AIUDF might be misguided. Regardless of the AIUDF’s sturdy presence in Dhubri, broadly thought-about the gateway of unlawful immigration from Bangladesh, some Bagbari villagers had been prepared to vote for the Raijor Dal, a political beginner.

The worry and loathing of the BJP is no surprise. The celebration, notably state finance minster and Assam BJP’s strongman, Himanta Biswa Sarma, has run a marketing campaign in opposition to the Miyas, or Bengali-speaking Muslims who got here to Assam from Bangladesh. Sarma has usually mentioned the celebration doesn’t want the votes of Miyas. This appears to have antagonised not solely the Bengali Muslims however even the Assamese Muslims, creating a brand new dynamic in minority politics.

Assamese Muslims are counted among the many indigenous individuals of the state, not like the Bengali-speaking Muslims, who’re thought-about as outsiders. Because of this, the Assamese Muslims have been strongly against unlawful immigration by Bengali Muslims and have supported any political celebration that has fought in opposition to this.

However the marketing campaign in opposition to the Miyas appears to have pushed the Assamese Muslims to shut ranks with the Bengali Muslims in opposition to the BJP, purely as a result of they’ve a standard non secular denomination.

Sipping fruit juice from a tetra pack and cooled by a pedestal fan inside his workplace in Goalpara, Mofiyal Rahman, an Assamese Muslim and proprietor of a nursing home-cum-pharmaceutical store, mentioned Sarma had requested individuals to not eat meals served by Miyas. “The remark was directed on the Bengali Muslims however this isn’t right and we’re upset. In spite of everything, we share the identical faith,” mentioned Rahman. Rahman’s assertion of his faith has lent a brand new flip to Assam’s advanced identification politics.

The Assamese Muslims like Rahman have by no means recognized themselves by their faith, at all times calling themselves merely as Assamese. The truth is, there’s little to distinguish between an Assamese Hindu and a Muslim. They communicate the identical language, share the identical meals habits, have a good time the identical festivals and are culturally united. Barring the faith, the 2 communities are indistinguishable.

“Assamese Muslims are extra Assamese than the Hindus. They’ve at all times recognized themselves solely as Assamese, not by their faith. Bengalis are culturally completely different,” mentioned Arindam Borkotaky, a political analyst and lecturer at ADP School, Nagaon.

Many Assamese Muslims, estimated to be 20 lakh out of the full Muslim inhabitants of 1.03 crore, are mentioned to have supported the BJP in 2016. “However this time the Muslims and Christians is not going to vote for the BJP. All minorities really feel threatened by it,” mentioned Satyakam Borthakur, a instructor at Dibrugarh College.

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