A private museum was inaugurated in October 2022 in Assam’s Goalpara district, displaying the distinct culture of the marginalized Bengali-origin Miya community. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders demanded shutting it down. Soon after, the Museum was sealed by the Goalpara district administration. The Assam Police accused the Museum of receiving funds from terror outfits.
Mohar Ali, one of the persons who started the Museum, was arrested along with three other activists under the draconian anti-terror law UAPA.
Mohar Ali is the president of the All Assam Miya Parishad. As a Bengali-origin Muslim, the activist had reclaimed the identity of the marginalized Bengali-origin Muslims, who are often seen as “outsiders” and “illegal migrants.” Ali had set up the Museum with Rs 7,000 in his home, which he owned under a government scheme Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMJY). He was sitting in Dharna (a demonstration) on the day of his arrest.
Miya is a derogatory term with negative implications for Bengali-origin Muslim population in Assam. During the anti-citizenship bill movement in 2019–2020, Miya poetry became an instrument to counter the persecution based on ethnicity in Assam. Soon it was recognized nationally and internationally as resistance poetry against oppression.
Academicians and human rights groups have condemned the arrest and the invocation of the draconian law for cultural resistance, as the Indian constitution guarantees the right to preserve the culture and identity of every citizen.
Political leaders from the opposition party have called his arrest “flimsy” and accused the state of persecuting the marginalized communities for their resistance against cultural erasure.
Charges and Allegations
Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
Not released yet.