The Assam Cabinet on Tuesday granted indigenous status to 40 lakh Assamese-speaking Muslims in the state to distinguish them from the Bengali-origin Muslim community, The Times of India reported.
The group was previously known as “indigenous Muslims” and was not officially recognised. With the approval, there is now a clear distinction between native Muslims and those of Bengali origin.
Members of Goria, Moriya, Deshi, Julah and Syed communities will be classified as Assamese Muslim sub-groups or indigenous Assamese Muslims, state Health Minister Keshab Kumar Mahanta said, according to the Hindustan Times.
The Assam government had said in June that it would work toward classifying indigenous minorities in the state, including Muslim communities. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that it was necessary to identify the native residents of the region.
Hafizul Ahmed, the chairperson of Goriya Unnayan Parishad, said his council was demanding a separate classification for the community since 2006, the Hindustan Times reported. “But since there was no such thing, we were getting marginalised and sidelined by Bengali-speaking Muslims,” he said.
Gorias are Muslims in Assam that have converted from various indigenous groups and tribes, according to The Hindu.
Advocate Nakibur Zaman from the Goria community said that its members were not getting benefits despite being indigenous to the state. “Today’s decision is a historic one for us and will pave the way for a separate census of our communities,” he added.