ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Case of Outmigrants from Barpeta, Assam

Citizenship in Dispute

Migration from Barpeta in Assam to Lucknow has been adopted as a strategy to escape from the problems of flood, poverty, and even identity crisis in the native state. However, this strategy is still not good enough to live a decent life without fear.

Migration is a very common yet intriguing and complex phenomenon in the process of development of economies and societies. It influences the society, polity, geography, culture, demography and economy in different ways and degrees. But what appears to be a mere geographic phenomenon has far-reaching implications for economies and societies and the distribution of people and resources. This article is based on the fieldwork conducted in two cities, one is the destination, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and the other is the source, Barpeta in Assam. The purpose of conducting this kind of research was to know the reasons and the background of migration of approximately more than 90,000 people (Vigyan Foundation1 2017–18) who have migrated from Barpeta to Lucknow. The unique feature of this migration is that all the migrants claim to have come from only one place—the Barpeta road, the railway station of Barpeta district. All are Bengali Muslims (of East Bengal origin) coming from lower Assam, who are called Miya Muslims.

These migrants in Lucknow have informally developed a system of door to door collection of waste and have found their livelihood in waste, thus digressing from their ancestral agrarian occupation in Assam. In Lucknow the public perception is that they are Bangladeshis, while they call themselves Assamese, and their inhabitations are known as Assamiya basti. During our field visit when we asked other people residing near the bastis of these migrants, if they were also from Assam, they would very distinctly answer, “nahi sahib hum Assamiya nahi hain, hum to yahi ke hain. Bahar se to ye log aye hai aur hamara kaam bhi chheen liya hai.” (No sir we are not from Assam, we belong to this place only. They have come from outside and have even snatched our work.) This statement reflected a kind of hostility in towards these outsiders by the people belonging to the Valmiki community who have been traditionally practising this trade. These migrants are scattered all over the city and are closely connected with each other. The group is homogeneous in terms of their culture, language, eating habits, festivals and attire and also share similar problems both at the destination and the source. In Assam they are allegedly called Bangladeshis and in Lucknow too, many a time, they are mistaken to be Bangladeshis.

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Updated On : 29th Oct, 2018

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