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Assam’s Muslim village Dampur defies vote bank politics

Daulat Rahman

Dampur, the largest Muslim-dominated village in Assam’s Kamrup district has defied vote bank politics. In recent years the villagers have voted for the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Congress as well as BJP and there is no reason to believe that they would behave differently this time during the ongoing General Elections.

Haidor Ali Saikia, former president of 67 No Dampur Gaon Panchayat told Awaz-The Voice that quality education and over 90 percent literacy rate have led to the rejection of vote bank politics by the people of Dampur.

“Dampur is considered to be a stronghold of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). This regional party was formed following the historic Assam Accord of 1985 which brought an end to the six-year anti-foreigners movement. A large number of villagers in Dampur have been voting for the AGP even though the party has forged an electoral alliance with the BJP. The people of Dampur are emotionally attached to the AGP because they participated in the anti-foreigners movement between 1979 and 1985. During the movement the students had lost one valuable academic year,” Haidor Ali Saikia said.

A class in progress in a private school in Dampur

Ali Saikia, however, asserts that the villagers had rejected the AGP whenever it has failed to perform and fulfil the aspirations of the voters.

Unlike many Muslim villages in the country where the literacy rate is very low, over 90 percent of residents of Dampur are literate. Dampur Government Higher Secondary School has produced many brilliant brains that are currently excelling in different fields. The area has four government high schools out of which one is for girl students, a private senior secondary school for science stream, nine government primary schools, one government high madrassa school, two jatiya vidyalayas (vernacular medium schools run on the line of English medium schools) and four private English medium schools in Dampur.

A literary function at Dampur

Noted litterateur and former chief engineer of Public Health Engineering Safiur Rahman Saikia said that even though Dampur has a 100 percent Muslim population, it has broken many myths and stereotype concepts commonly associated with a Muslim village in India.

“Even before the independence of the country education was always a priority in Dampur. Girls never faced any discrimination or hassles in getting an education in Dampur. The majority of villagers are well educated and politicians or political parties cannot use them as vote bank,” Rahman Saikia said.

Students celebrating a national day at the islamic Madrasa, Dampur

In 1927 students of Dampur formed a platform designed as Dampur Chatra Sanmilani to create awareness for noble causes of the society and unite the younger generation irrespective of caste, creed, and religion. Every year Dampur Chatra Sanmilani organizes an annual convention where people from different walks of life participate and celebrate India’s unique diverse culture through songs and dances.

The people of this village run the Dampur Islamic Madrassa with their own financial and other logistical contributions. Haidor Ali Saikia, president of the management committee of the madrassa said apart from Islamic education the madrassa also imparts modern education to its students.

Sumon Shahnaz, the first woman Police offcer from Dampur

Dampur has at present a population of 21,000 villagers and 45 percent of them are farmers. The village is self-sufficient in rice, other paddy, and vegetable production. There are 26 mosques in Dampur and every mosque’s imams preach the message of peace and brotherhood.

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Till the last general elections in 2019, Dampur was under the Guwahati Lok Sabha constituency. After the recent delimitation exercise, Dampur has been included under the Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency. The constituency going for poll on May 7 is likely to witness a tough battle between the AGP (backed by the BJP) and Congress.

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