Citizenship Bill: Why Assam Can’t Afford To Throw Out Hindu Migrants From Bangladesh Even If They’re Paperless

Citizenship Bill: Why Assam Can’t Afford To Throw Out Hindu Migrants From Bangladesh Even If They’re PaperlessAssam, NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Snapshot
  • If the Bangladeshi-origin Hindus are declared ‘foreigners’ and lose their voting rights, Muslims will become a decisive factor in at least 57 assembly segments in Assam when the next assembly polls are held in the state in 2021.

Even though some organisations in Assam are vehemently opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) tabled in the Parliament today, the fact is that only this legislation can save Assam from an impending demographic disaster.

Thanks to largescale illegal influx of Bangladeshis over the past few decades, the Muslim population in Assam has gone up alarmingly from 17.62 per cent in 1951 to an estimated 35.44 per cent now.

And thanks to very high growth rates among Bangladeshi-origin Muslims, this percentage is expected to rise to 38 per cent by 2025.

Ten of Assam’s 33 districts have become Muslim-majority and three more will become Muslim-majority by 2025.

Assam’s indigenous Muslims today constitute just 25 per cent of the total Muslim population of the state, and the remaining 75 per cent are of Bangladeshi-origin.

While the indigenous Muslims use Assamese as their mother tongue, the Bangladeshi-origin ones speak various dialects of Bengali.

According to the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which is spearheading the anti-CAB stir in the state, there are an estimated 50 lakh illegal migrants from Bangladesh (those who infiltrated into the state after 24 March 1971) residing in Assam.

Of the 50 lakh, an estimated 15 lakh are Hindus. As the recent NRC updation exercise in Assam has revealed, many of these Hindus do not possess valid citizenship documents or any documents through which they can lay claim to Indian citizenship.

The Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators, on the other hand, have fraudulently obtained such documents with the help of a corrupt and biased administrative machinery in Assam and with the patronage of politicians belonging to the Congress, which has nurtured them as a crucial vote bank.

If the 15 lakh Hindus, who infiltrated into Assam after 1971, are identified as ‘foreigners’ (as they will be in the proposed nationwide NRC updation exercise two years from now), the Muslim infiltrators, who possess (fraudulently obtained) citizenship documents, will become a decisive factor during elections in at least 17 more assembly segments.

Muslims are already a decisive factor in 40 of the 126 assembly constituencies in Assam. Indigenous Muslims form a decisive chunk in just 19 of them, while in the remaining, it is the Bangladeshi-origin Muslims who play a significant role.

If the Bangladeshi-origin Hindus are declared ‘foreigners’ and lose their voting rights, Muslims will become a decisive factor in at least 57 assembly segments in Assam when the next assembly polls are held in the state in 2021.

That is why, says the Assam health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, it is vital to grant citizenship to the Bengali Hindus to prevent Bangladeshi-origin Muslims from becoming the dominant political constituency in Assam.

If citizenship is not granted to the Bengali Hindus, says Sarma, a Bangladeshi-origin Muslim could well become the chief minister of the state by 2026. That, he adds, will spell a demographic disaster for Assam.

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