The migrated Bengali speaking Assamese Muslim farmers are commonly known as Char Dwellers of Assam. The erosion of the Bramhaputra river started in 1950 but became worse in the last 20 years. The river bed which was initially 1 kilometer stretched up to 11 kilometers and created many Islands every year. The river is changing its direction every year so many villages and Islands are becoming worse to live in. The Miya community is struggling in a dual crisis of floods and the National Register of Citizenship. The story is about the hard life of the Miya community living as Char dwellers in Assam.
The erosion of the Bramhaputra river started in 1950 but became worse in the last 20 years. The river bed which was initially 1 kilometer stretched up to 11 kilometers and created many Islands every year. The river is changing its direction every year so many villages and Islands are becoming worse to live in.
A socio-economic survey of three hundred and four households in six char villages spread over three development blocks of Barpeta district reveals that twenty-nine per cent of the households were affected due to erosion. Forty-eight per cent of the land was wiped out between 1988 and 2003. People make use of small boats to travel from one place to another daily. The entire region gets flooded almost every rainy season. The villagers take shelter at shelter camps with their valuables for a couple of months.
A farmer grazing his cattle at the edge of river Brahmaputra island. Bengali speaking Assamese Muslims are agriculture laborer’s, who migrated in the British era before Indian Independence. The Miya Muslims inhabit the Chars and are struggling a lot for their existence, along with ‘Migration and Identity. They are crushed between soil erosion and the National Citizenship Register. Farmers came up with a unique solution to community farming. This story is about the struggle of the sandbar dwellers ‘Miya Muslim’ community from the Barpeta District of lower Assam, their struggle for existence, identity, and community farming.
There are around 2.4 million people who are surviving around the Char (Sandbars) of the Brahmaputra river. The highest land erosion is in Majuli followed by the Barpeta district of lower Assam, 19346.17 hectares of land, according to State government records. Another record of the state Government of Assam mentions that 27111 people have been landless to date. This information was provided as an answer to a question in the Indian Parliament in July 2019 by the minister. A couple working on a small piece of their farm.
A young boy cultivating watermelon on an island farm. Tarabari cluster of Barpeta district observes community farming. According to Dr Walter, these People think that they have been evicted from their current settlements and still, they pay tax for their Eroded land. The farmers, laborer’s who are Bengali speaking Muslims of Assam use to live a nomadic life, from one char to another which submerges in a nearby future, resulting in landlessness again.
A villagers group from Goma village busy in to harvesting. Community farming has brought a ray of hope to their life. The Miya community is facing issues like erosion of landscape, unstable lifestyle, lower-income resources, lack of basic amenities. Every year millions of people struggle to survive through the mega-floods in lower Assam. Again, after the flood, they restart life once again.
A farmer carrying his share of the crop on the head to his home in the settlement. Community farming has brought a ray of hope to their life. The Miya community is facing issues like erosion of landscape, unstable lifestyle, lower-income resources, lack of basic amenities. Every year millions of people struggle to survive through the mega-floods in lower Assam. Again, after the flood, they restart life once again.
The climate refugees or Char Dwellers of Assam are earning very poor from their farming. The insufficient agricultural produce keeps them helpless and their struggle continues.
A woman cooking food in a small hut in the Goma village. The char dweller families live in such small temporary huts with fewer households in fear of recurring floods. Every year they have to take shelter in relief camps in floods with their essentials and valuables.
The family of Mallika Sikdar, the wife of a fisherman Rashid Ali, a resident of Goma, is among those excluded from NRC. She submitted a Pan Card, Voter ID at Goma for NRC but her entire family was excluded. Dr Walter Fernandes, a senior research fellow at North Eastern Social Research Centre, claims that 4 million people have been excluded from the National Register of Citizenship (NRC). Half of these numbers lack proper documents. According to Dr Walter, these People think that they have been evicted from their current settlements and still, they pay tax for their Eroded land.
Nandar Khan, a primary teacher from a government primary school, comes from two kilometers to teach the students from Foolbari village. The school remains closed for two months of July and August as the village and school go underwater. The poor infrastructure and resources for the education of char dwellers’ children, pushes them again into farms.
Arman Khan, a resident of Goma village successfully managed to submit the documents for NRC. His struggle does not end, he is thinking about a small piece of land left from erosion out of two hectares. The Miya Muslims are struggling with soil erosion as well as National Citizenship Register (NRC) to save their community and their identity.
A ray of hope coming for Miya Muslims as they got their representative in the Assam state assembly, the youngest member elected to the Assam assembly in the 2021 elections belongs to Miya Muslims. Ashraful Hussain, 27-year-old activist, journalist and poet got elected from Chenga constituency to represent his Miya community. He demonstrated how a person from a marginalized community can win elections with empty pockets and with a capital of trust earned from the selfless service of his people. Ashraful Hussain addressing students and people in a gathering about their rights and injustice about the Miya community.
A farmer trying to plough the fields reflects how hard life they are living to survive. The Bengali speaking Assamese Muslim community is struggling through the severe issue of finding their own Identity. The community is on the doorstep to not only lose their nationality but their existence. They are in a complex crisis of Environmental change, socio-economic instability, lack of documentation, difficulty in establishing nationality, children education and a safe cultural identity of their community.