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Welfare schemes: Gauhati HC issues notice to Assam govt in plea challenging socio-economic survey of indigenous Muslims

A notice has been served to the Assam Government by the Gauhati High Court in a PIL challenging the recommendations of the Sub-Committee on Cultural Identity of Indigenous Assamese Muslims.

A notice has also been served challenging Cabinet decision to conduct a socio-economic survey of the five sub-groups (Syed, Goriya, Moriya, Deshi and Julha) which are identified as the indigenous Assamese speaking Muslims by the Sub-Committee.

The division bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Lanusungkum Jamir and Justice Kardak Ete said that notice should be issued while keeping the issue of maintainability open.

Addl. Senior Govt. Advocate D. K. Sharma appeared for the sole respondent.

The court listed the matter after 4(four) weeks. The prayer for interim shall be considered on the next returnable date.

The petitioner submitted that in July 2021,a Cabinet Sub-Committee was constituted by the Assam Government to identify the indigenous Assamese-speaking Muslims to uplift their socio-economic status by way of implementing some special schemes for them.

The petitioner also submitted that the Cabinet Sub-Committee has identified five sub-groups of Muslims as the indigenous Assamese-speaking Muslims who are residing in the Brahmaputra valley.

It was stated that on December 8, 2023, the Assam Government has decided in its Cabinet meeting to conduct a socio-economic survey of the above mentioned identified five sub-groups of indigenous Muslims for their uplift.

The cabinet decision as well as the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub-Committee were challenged on them being discriminatory in nature, being illegal and unconstitutional.

Under the Chairmanship of Wasbir Hussain, the Sub-Committee noted that the Muslim population in Assam can be divided into two broad categories- the indigenous Assamese-speaking Muslims and Bengali-speaking Muslims.

The petitioner added that this classification is discriminatory against the Muslims residing in Barak Valley.

The State Counsel questioned and contested the maintainability of the PIL stating that the Sub-Committee has not been added as the respondent in the PIL, and that the other identified groups in the Sub-Committee report have not been added as party respondents.

The State Counsel argued that this is policy decision was based on a report after taking written statements from all the groups of the Muslim community residing in the State of Assam.

The petitioner contended that he is not challenging the status of the five groups, instead, his submission is that the Muslim population of Barak Valley shall also be included as indigenous Muslims in the survey.

It was further submitted by the petitioner that the recommendations of the Sub-Committee are unconstitutional on the ground that ethnicity cannot be tagged to religion and based on religion, no welfare policy can be implemented for the uplift of a particular group.

The matter has been listed after four weeks.

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