This Is Why Assam Chief Minister Is Well-Justified In Asking State’s Muslims To Adopt Family Planning

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jun 11, 2021 08:08 PM +05:30 IST
This Is Why Assam Chief Minister Is Well-Justified In Asking State’s Muslims To Adopt Family PlanningAssam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
  • Experts say that even though illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is down to a trickle now, the number of Bengali-speaking Muslims has been increasing exponentially solely due to the galloping birth rate in the community.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has called on Muslims residing in Assam to adopt decent population control measures.

Speaking on the completion of 30 days of his government, Sarma said that family planning was necessary to bring down poverty and illiteracy among Muslims and also to ease the pressure on land.

Sarma’s appeal to Muslims has triggered a storm of criticism.

Nonetheless, Sarma’s exhortation to Muslims to bring down the birth rate within the community is well-justified.

It must be remembered here that by Muslims, what Sarma meant was Bangladesh-origin Bengali-speaking Muslims, who have entered Assam illegally over the past few decades.

Assam’s indigenous Muslims number about 40 lakh and account for only 28 per cent of the total Muslim population in Assam.

Literacy levels among the indigenous Muslims, who follow a syncretic and very liberal version of Islam, are high, and the birth rate among them is lower than that of other indigenous communities of Assam.

Thus, the demographic threat that Assam faces today is posed exclusively by Bangladesh-origin illegal migrants or their descendants.

A look at the figures will reveal the acute gravity of this threat. The steep rise in the numbers of Bangladesh-origin illegal migrants (and their descendants) is both due to unabated influx from the neighbouring country and also due to the abnormally high birth rate in this community.

Experts say that even though illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is down to a trickle now, the number of Bengali-speaking Muslims has been increasing exponentially solely due to the galloping birth rate in the community.

Being largely backward, most among these Bengali-speaking Muslims follow a radical version of Islam that enjoins upon them to increase their numbers.

“Many men in this (Bengali-speaking Muslim) community practise polygamy and have, on an average, six to seven children. They believe it is their sacred duty to procreate and increase their numbers,” said Mritunjoy Saikia, a population expert who has been involved in many studies on Assam’s demography.

Muslims formed 24.68 per cent of the total population of Assam in 1951 — they numbered a little over 19.95 lakh of the state’s total population of 80.28 lakh.

Large-scale and illegal influx from Bangladesh started after the formation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The horrific persecution of Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan in the run-up and during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence from Pakistan saw a large number of Bengali Hindus fleeing to Assam and Bengal.

But from the mid to late 1970s, Bengali-speaking Muslims started entering Assam illegally in large numbers due to unchecked population growth among Muslims in newly-independent Bangladesh and the resultant acute pressure on land there.

The 1981 Census revealed that Muslims were 26.15 per cent of the population; they numbered 47.22 lakh, which was a significant increase of 11.28 lakh from the Muslim population in Assam in 1971.

The indigenous Muslims of Assam, it must be noted here again, accounted for very little of this increase (in overall population of Muslims) and the rise was mostly due to the unabated influx of Bengali-speaking Muslims from Bangladesh as well as the very high birth rate among them.

Over the next 10 years, the number of Muslims rose by 16.5 lakh and in 1991, Muslims formed 28.43 per cent of the population. The 1991 Census put their numbers at 63.73 lakh (out of the state’s total population of 2.24 crore).

By 2001, the percentage of Muslims in Assam rose to 30.92 per cent and their numbers stood at 82.4 lakh. That was a rise of 18.67 lakh in their numbers in a 10-year period.

The percentage of Muslim population in Assam rose further to 34.22 per cent in 2011 and that year’s census put their numbers at over 1.06 crore. That represented a rise in the number of Muslims by over 24.38 lakh.

The estimated population of Muslims in Assam at present is over 1.4 crore; that makes them 40.03 per cent of the population of the state.

The rise in the number of Muslims over the last 10 years (since 2011) is estimated to be over 33.43 lakh (see table below)

This Is Why Assam Chief Minister Is Well-Justified In Asking State’s Muslims To Adopt Family Planning
(* estimated)

Population experts like Mritunjoy Saikia, relying on a mathematical model, say that by 2035, Muslims will form over 50 per cent of Assam’s population.

And an overwhelming majority of them will be Bangladesh-origin Bengali-speaking Muslims: a largely illiterate lot of fundamentalist Muslims practising polygamy, keeping womenfolk under subjugation and breeding exponentially.

The threat to the state’s demographic balance, which has already been irreversibly upset, that such a huge mass of fundamentalists who tend to follow the regressive diktats of Salafi clerics cannot be overstated.

The indigenous people of Assam are, thus, very alarmed at the continuing rise in Muslim, especially Bengali-speaking Muslim population in the state.

Understandably so, because in all the districts where Bengali-speaking Muslims have become a majority, indigenous people have had to move out or live in abject fear of the majority (Muslim) population like second-class citizens.

“No community in the world would like to be reduced to a hopeless and hapless minority in their own homeland and see their culture, identity and traditions be swamped and erased by an alien population who are intolerant, regressive, fundamentalist and exclusivist,” said the editor of a prominent Assamese language daily who did not want to be named.

The editor pointed out that just as Kashmiri Muslims would not like to be reduced to a minority in the Kashmir Valley, the Assamese and other indigenous communities of Assam would not like to become minorities in Assam.

“But many who are criticising Himanta Biswa Sarma today will take to the streets if any attempt is made to settle non-Muslims in Kashmir Valley to bring about a demographic change there. This exposes the shameless hypocrisy of the pseudo-liberals and pseudo-seculars who object to the Chief Minister’s appeal to Muslims to control their birth rate,” said the editor.

The rapid rise in the number of Bangladesh-origin Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam who naturally do not owe any allegiance to India also poses a grave threat to the country’s security.

The Assam Chief Minister was, thus, right in flagging this grave concern and appealing to the Muslims to put a check on their rise in numbers.

If Assam’s indigenous people become a minority in Assam thanks to a demographic invasion by Bangladesh-origin Muslims, not only they but the rest of India will also have to bear the terrible and dangerous brunt of that.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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