Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma on June 10 appealed to the Muslim community in the state to adopt ‘decent family planning’ norms to bring down poverty and control social problems.
Addressing a press conference to mark the completion of the first month of his government, Dr. Sarma said, “We want to work with the minority Muslim community to control the population. The root cause of issues like poverty, land encroachment, etc. lies in uncontrolled population growth. I think we can put an end to lot of social problems in Assam if the Muslim community adopts decent family planning norms.”
The Chief Minister also urged various organizations like the All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) and opposition party, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), to focus on population control initiatives in the Muslim community.
The statements by the Chief Minister of Assam have not been well received by many. Opposition parties Congress and the AIUDF lashed out at the CM over his remarks.
While Assam Congress termed the Chief Minister’s statement in the context of population ‘explosion’ in Assam as “misinformed and misleading,” AIUDF on the other hand alleged that the CM has intentionally targeted Muslims and his remarks were politically motivated.
Dr. Sarma also received flake at the National level for his comments. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Chief Asauddin Owasi attacked the Assam CM on Twitter by writing that the statement was anti-Muslim and the CM was playing Communal politics.
Assam CM has again started talk of “population control”. This is Hindutva-speak for blaming poor & marginalised
Here are the facts @himantabiswa
Assam has already achieved replacement levels of TFR 2.1. National TFR is 2.2. In simple words, there’s no population explosion 1/n
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) June 10, 2021
Despite all the political reverberations, the statements by the Chief Minister might seem significant if one goes by statistics. Here is why:
Muslim population in Assam has grown at a much faster rate as compared to other states of the country. As per census data, the growth rate of the Muslim population in the state is 3.3 percent between 2001 and 2011 which is the highest among all the states. Also, the Muslim population is projected to grow by another 5.81 percent in the upcoming 2021 census and will account for 40.03 percent of the state’s total population.
The fertility rate of Muslim women in Assam is 2.4 children per woman which is higher than the national rate of 2.2 and the second-highest among all the states in the country. Even though the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) of 2019-20 released by the Union Health Minister in December 2020 showed that this community has seen the sharpest fall in fertility since 2005-06, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of the Muslim community in Assam is still higher than the 1.6 for Hindus and 1.5 for Christians.
The 2011 census states that 9 districts in Assam have a Muslim majority population and all these districts have shown a much higher population growth than the state’s average growth of 17 percent. Also, it is projected that the Muslim population will be a majority in 13 districts of the state and highly concentrated in four districts in the upcoming 2021 census.