The president and general secretary of Assam Miya Parishad were arrested along with three others for their alleged association with terror outfits under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, police said on Wednesday.
The arrests were made after the controversial ‘Miya Museum’, set up in a house allotted under Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana in Assam’s Goalpara district, was sealed on Tuesday, just two days after being opened to the public.
The Miya Parishad president M Mohar Ali was picked up by the police from the museum at Dapkabhita in Goalpara district when he was sitting on a dharna, while its general secretary Abdul Baten Sheikh was taken into custody from his residence at Alamganj in Dhubri district on Tuesday night, the police said.
The Ahom Royal Society member Tanu Dhadumia, who had inaugurated the museum on Sunday, was picked up from his residence in Kawamari village in Dibrugarh, the police said.
The trio were taken to Nalbari in connection with a case registered at the Ghograpar police station under various sections of the UAPA for investigation and interrogation for their alleged association with the militant outfits Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Ansarul Bangla Team (ABT), a senior police officer said.
Another police officer of Nalbari district said the setting up of the ‘Miya Museum’ and the involvement of Ali, Sheikh and Dhadumia were revealed during interrogation of a few fundamentalists arrested recently.
Two other persons, Sadeq Ali and Jekibul Ali, were picked up last week from Howly in Barpeta and Ghograpar in Nalbari for their alleged links with radical fundamentalist outfits. The duo were arrested by Nalbari police on Wednesday but are not associated with the setting up of the ‘Miya Museum’, the police said.
All the five men were produced before the court on Wednesday. Ali, Sheikh and Dhadumia were remanded to two days in police custody, while the two others were given five days of police remand.
Meanwhile, an AAP spokesperson in Guwahati told PTI that Dhadumia, who was a leader of the party was removed from it, as he failed in his duties.
A team of government officers had on Tuesday sealed the ‘Miya Museum’ and put up a notice that it was done on the orders of the deputy commissioner.
Some agricultural implements and fishing equipment, hand towels and ‘lungis’ were on display at the museum.
Ali, before being taken into custody, sat on a dharna along with his two minor sons outside the house demanding that the administration immediately reopen the repository.
“We are displaying objects with which the community identifies itself so that people from other communities can realise that the Miyas’ are not any different from them, Ali said.
The word ‘Miya’ in Assam refers to Bengali-speaking migrants, some of whose roots can be traced to Bangladesh.
Following the inauguration of the Miya Museum on Sunday, senior BJP leaders had demanded its immediate closure and the party’s Minority Morcha member Abdur Rahim Gibran had filed a complaint at Lakhipur police station against the setting up of the museum in a PMAY-allotted house.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Tuesday said that such activities by some members of the Miya community “posed a threat to Assamese identity”.
“How can they (Miya’ community) claim that the plough is their identity? It has been used by all farmers in the state for ages. It is only the lungi that they can claim as their own,” Sarma had said on the sidelines of a programme.
Those who have set up the museum will have to answer to an expert committee on what basis the claims were made, he added.
Congress Lok Sabha MP Abdul Khaleque said that there is no community called ‘Miya’ and it is merely a form of honorific address.
People have the cultural right to set up a museum or library in their house, but I don’t think there is any need for a community museum, Khaleque told PTI.
It is, however, an injustice to arrest somebody for setting up a museum and book the person under terror laws, the Barpeta MP said.
The community should also be careful about laying claims to objects like the plough as their own as farmers across the subcontinent use it, Khaleque added.
AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam said the party is against the opening of the Miya Museum’, but the reasons that led to its establishment should be looked into.
The community’s members have felt humiliated over the years and this could be a reaction to their pent up frustration, he said.
According to eminent advocate Nekibur Zaman, the setting up of the museum is a conspiracy by a section of the community to create a divide in Assamese society.
It is only in recent years that we are hearing of things like Miya museum, schools, poetry and even demand for autonomous councils comprising Dhubri and Barpeta. These are the work of certain forces with vested interests to threaten the culture and identity of the Assamese society, he claimed.
The setting up of a Miya Museum’ was first proposed by former Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed in 2020, which was rejected by the chief minister.