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Orissa Muslims

The recorded history of Orissa began with the invasion of Kalinga by Ashoka in 261 BC. After annexing Kalinga to Magadh, Ashoka sowed the seed of Budhism in Orissa. During the rule of Kharavela, Jainism took its root in the state. However, Orissa was a Hindu Kingdom till the mid sixteenth century.

Sulaiman Karrani conquered Orissa in 1568 defeating Raja Mukundadeva and appointed Khan Jahan Lodi as the governor of Cuttack. The Afghans ruled Orissa from 1568 to 1592 and later the state was under Mughal rule till 1759.

The Muslim settlement in Orissa started in fifteenth century with the migration of Muslims from Bengal and propagation of Islam. However, Muslim population in the state has remained very small till today. According to 1981 census, there were 422,266 Muslims in the state against 25,161,725 Hindus. In 1991, the Muslim population increased to 577,775 and the Hindu population to 29,971,257. The percentage of growth of the Muslim population during the decade 1981 – 1991 was 36.83. There are only three Muslim representatives in the 147 member strong state legislature. Only 3 percent of the Orissa population is Muslim and most of them are concentrated in Cuttak, Jagasinhapur and Puri districts.

With the establishment of the Muslim rule, Orissa became an integral part of India’s national political life. During Muslim rule, dress, ornament, food habit, art and culture of the Oriya people were deeply influenced by the Islamic culture. A good number of Persian, Urdu and Arabic words were assimilated in Oriya language and literature. The Mughal Tamasha of Bhadrak bears testimony of the Muslim influence on the indigenous art and culture of Orissa till to day.

The Muslims of Orissa are today passing through hard times. Over 70 percent of them live below the subsistence level. Most of them are poor farmers and daily-wage-earners. They are educationally backward and deprived from the benefit of development that has taken place in the state over the years. They are socially and politically unorganized and divided due to lack of strong Muslim leadership in the state.

There are very few Muslims to be found in trade and commerce in Orissa. It is learnt that the main reason of this backwardness is lack of knowledge of government finance and assistance. There is a great need to equip the young people of Orissa with knowledge and skill to arrange finance and undertake business ventures on their own initiative.

KU Khan, a trained Urdu teacher of Cuttak said that the Muslims of Orissa are in dire need of help from the Muslim ummah in spheres of education and self-employment as it is very difficult to get jobs for them in both private and public sectors. He has been rendering honorary services in an Urdu school of Cuttak for last eight years with the hope that one day he will be absorbed in the post of Urdu teacher by the education department of the state government.

It is obvious that the Muslim community of Orissa is in a difficult situation. It is in dire need of education, training, employment and finance for self-employment. It is felt that the Minority Finance Development Corporation has a lot of things to do in this field to ameliorate condition of the Orissa Muslims. The establishment of vocational training centres in the Muslim educational institutions in the state is the need of the hour.

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