By Debananda Medak
GUWAHATI: The community members of the Muslim fishermen, who are also known as Mahimals, do not hesitate to realise that elections come after every five years only to celebrate the deprivation they have been receiving decade after the decade.
Talking to Time8, Shah Jalal, an elderly individual of the Mahimal community said, “Ever since independence, we experienced voting for the Indian National Congress (INC), All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and even for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). All those parties rewarded us uncountable negligence and deprivation. We are habituated to caste our votes only to celebrate our decade-long deprivation.”
Jalal, who is a resident of Kalain town of Cachar district in Assam’s Barak valley said, “The settlement of the Mahimals are limited to the Barak valley and is one of the marginalised communities of Assam. Our issues and concerns are neither addressed by the Muslim leaders nor by the Hindu leaders. We do make them MLAs and MPs from time to time irrespective of caste and religion. In reward, they do not forget to deprive us of all sorts of welfare schemes.”
It needs mention here that the Mahimals are scattered along the Sonai and Barak rivers across the valley. These Muslim fishermen are one of the most deprived and marginalised communities of the valley.
Expressing concern over the poverty and deprivation faced by the fishing community, Biplav Kanti Paul, a social worker and an entrepreneur of repute of Cachar said, “Mahimals are considered lower caste within the Muslim social hierarchy. Hence, the AIUDF MLAs of the valley, most of who are upper castes Muslims never address the concerns of the Mahimals. Similarly, the Congress and BJP MLAs too are never bothered with the problems of the Mahimals for they belong to the Muslim by religion. The Mahimals are simply trapped in between the religious bifurcation.”
Paul stressed that in the case of a particular community, the Mahimals are one of the most oppressed groups in the valley who need immediate attention. Kalain, Katigorah, Sonai, Udharbandh and Lakhipur are some of the places where the MAhimals are predominant.
According to Paul, Katigorah Vidhan Sabha constituency in Cachar district alone comprises more than 12,000 Mahimal voters.
He observed that only a liberal and development centric public representatives from the valley can change the fate of the neglected Mahimals in the ensuing assembly elections scheduled for 2021.