Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has urged Muslims in the state to adopt “decent population control” measures and have smaller families.
Speaking on the completion of 30 days in office, Sarma said that the unabated increase in the population of Muslims was directly responsible for their growing poverty.
Sarma urged the leaders of the community and organisations like the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) to help the government in this regard.
Sarma said that leaders and influential people and organisations of the Muslim community should convince the members of the community to adopt population control measures.
Asserting that his government is working for the benefit of all the people of Assam and is not against any community, Sarma said that the government also needs the support and cooperation of all communities to work for their welfare.
“The government is the guardian of all poor people but the government also requires the support of the people in reducing poverty and tackling the issue of population growth, which is the primary cause of poverty, illiteracy and leads to lack of proper family planning,” the Chief Minister said.
He pointed out that the unabated rise in Muslim population was also increasing pressure on land, thus leading to encroachment on government and forest lands and lands belonging to mandirs and xatras (Vaishanvite institutions).
Sarma was reacting to criticism from some quarters against the recent anti-encroachment drives launched by his government.
Noting that most of the encroachers on land belonging to Hindu religious institutions and forests were Muslims, he said that if the steep rise in population of Muslims can be controlled, such encroachments will also decrease.
Sarma reiterated his government’s commitment to free all land belonging to religious institutions and the government, as well as forests, of encroachments.
“The government cannot allow encroachment of lands belonging to mandirs and xatras, forests or any other place with which sentiments of people are associated,” the Chief Minister said.
Sarma said that leaders and elected members from the Muslim community have assured the government that they are also against encroachments of lands belonging to religious institutions and forest lands.
The Chief Minister said his government will work towards educating Muslim women and creating awareness about population control among them so that the problem posed by rapid increase in the Muslim population can be addressed.
He cited the examples of the Bodo and Mising communities, which have adopted proper family planning measures and checked their population growth. As a result of that, these communities have not encroached on forest lands as they used to in the past.
Sarma also reiterated his government’s firm resolve to protect Assam’s land, identity, culture, language and heritage from the threat posed by illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
The Muslim population in Assam has been increasing very rapidly due to absence of family planning and population control measures among the Bangladesh-origin Muslim migrants.
In 1951 (when the first Census in independent India was conducted), Muslims formed 24.68 per cent of the total population. Their numbers were a little over 19.95 lakh of the state’s total population of 80.28 lakh.
For the next three decades (till 1981), the Muslim population in Assam registered only a marginal increase; it rose to 26.15 per cent in 1981—Muslims numbered 47.22 lakh (of the state’s total population of 1.8 crore) that year.
However, the Muslim population in the state started rising exponentially since 1981 due to unabated influx from Bangladesh and also the complete absence of family planning in the community.
In 1991, Muslims formed 28.43 per cent of the population — they numbered 63.73 lakh. Ten years later, in 2001, the percentage of Muslims rose to 30.92 per cent and their numbers stood at 82.4 lakh.
In 2011, Muslims formed 34.22 per cent of the population of Assam and numbered over 1.06 crore. At present, Muslims are estimated to form 40.03 per cent of the state’s population and number over 1.4 crore.
The indigenous people of Assam fear that if the rapid rise in population of Muslims remains unchecked, the indigenous people of the state will be reduced to hapless minorities in their own lands.
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