The Assam government on Tuesday said that it will conduct a socio-economic survey of the state's five indigenous Muslim communities so that measures can be taken for their upliftment.
The decision is expected to provide a push for their development in healthcare, cultural identity, education, financial matters, skill development and women empowerment among others, the Chief Minister's Office said in a statement.
The opposition Congress, however, termed the move as a divisive tactic by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and demanded that, instead of a "selective survey", the exercise be conducted for all communities, especially the backward ones.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma held a meeting with Minority Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and senior officials at the state secretariat regarding it.
"In a meeting held at Janata Bhawan, HCM Dr @himantabiswa directed the officials concerned to carry out a socio-economic assessment of Assam's Indigenous Muslim communities (Goria, Moria, Deshi, Syed & Jolha)," the CMO posted on X.
The findings of the assessment will guide the state government to take suitable measures, aimed at comprehensive socio-political and educational upliftment of the indigenous minorities, it said.
The development comes a day after the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar released findings of its much-awaited caste survey, months ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, which revealed that OBCs and EBCs constitute 63 per cent of the state's total population.
The CMO later in the evening issued a statement saying: "The government of Assam has given its in-principle nod to the initiation of the process for a 'Socio-Economic Assessment' of the state's five indigenous Muslim communities."
The state cabinet has already approved the "indigenous" status for the five Muslim communities, it added.
"Sarma instructed the authorities concerned to take necessary measures to ensure the upcoming 'Socio-Economic Assessment' on its completion is able to furnish adequate data that can be utilised by the government of Assam to take steps for comprehensive socio-political, academic and economic uplift for the five indigenous Muslim communities," the statement said.
The statement pointed out that Sarma had last year participated in an interactive session with the intellectuals and leading citizens of the indigenous Muslim communities.
This was followed by formation of several sub-committees with representatives of indigenous Muslims to deliberate on various issues related to the community.
The sub-committees, in their reports, had recommended a comprehensive "Socio-Economic Survey" covering the members of the five indigenous Muslim communities.
Reacting to the development, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia said a survey should be carried out for all communities, especially the backward ones, in Assam.
"Goria and Moria are indigenous Muslim communities and belong to the OBC category. Then why is the government doing a selective survey? If they have any good intentions, the survey should be done for all OBCs as well as SCs and STs," the senior Congress leader said.
Saikia asserted that there are constitutional provisions for a survey for the Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
"Conducting a survey only for the Muslims, mainly the OBC Muslims, is a divisionary tactic of the BJP government. It is also a reactionary move after the Bihar government's caste survey, which was published yesterday," he added.
Saikia said that funds were allocated by the Sarbananda Sonowal-led Assam government for the socio-economic survey of the indigenous Muslim communities, but it was never done.
While presenting the state budget for 2019-20, Sarma, who was then the finance minister, hailed the important role played by the indigenous Muslims -- Goria, Moria, Ujani, Deshi, Jolha, Poimal, Syed -- in the social and economic progress of the state and announced plans to set up a development corporation for them.
In February 2020, the then Assam Minority Development Board Chairman Muminul Aowal said the government was likely to conduct a survey to identify indigenous Muslims.
According to him, the plan was to have the census for identifying four communities -- Goria, Moria, Deshi and Jolha of tea tribes, which have been termed as the indigenous Muslim tribes of Assam. However, this plan never took off.
According to the 2011 census, Assam had a total Muslim population of 1.07 crore, making up 34.22 per cent of the total 3.12 crore residents of the state. There were 1.92 crore Hindus in the state, around 61.47 per cent of the total population.