Even Govt Data on fertility rate debunks his claim
By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Prominent Muslim and women groups on Friday strongly decried Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s ‘vitriolic remarks’ against Muslims in the state. Demanding an unconditional apology from the CM, they said the statement is a ‘communal- fascist’ one that is not only targeting the Muslim community but also an indirect call for violence against Muslims.
Sarma said “…the Minority community should adopt decent population control measures to reduce poverty and pressure on land.” He made these ‘acerbic remarks during a press conference in Guwahati on Thursday as the state government’s ‘anti-encroachment drives’ against the Muslim dwellers across the state came for sharp criticism.
All India Muslim Majlis-e- Mushawarat (AIMMM), a joint platform of leading community organizations, has severely criticized the CM for his latest comments on the community saying he is known for issuing such irresponsible and highly objectionable statements. Mushawarat president Navid Hamid said Sarma’s conduct is unbecoming a chief minister who has taken oath on the constitution.
It is an attempt to divert public attention from the utter failure of the BJP-led state government in tackling the deadly Covid-19 pandemic in the state.
It is politically motivated statement and is a brazen attempt to deflect attention of people from his government’s inept handling of the Covid pandemic in the state which has been spread after the just concluded assembly elections, Mushawarat leader added.
Sarma’s comments have created a stir among people in Assam too, especially the Muslim organizations and people’s representative, who have condemned the government move of anti-encroachment drives.
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) came down heavily on the CM for his ‘decent family planning policy’ statement. The AIUDF asked the CM to find out the reason and control it.
“Instead of saying that a particular community has more children, the CM should work on controlling it and find out reason,” said Animul Islam, AIUDF General Secretary and Mancachar MLA.
He called Sarma’s statement politically motivated to target a particular community. Islam, who is also AIUDF spokesperson, underlined that the community never opposed to government’s population policy. The primary reason for the rise in population is poverty and illiteracy, and the government has no concrete plan for the two, Isalm added.
Taking strong exception of the BJP leader Sarma’s statement, prominent women group, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) said it is appalled and strongly condemned the reported ‘advice’ given by him.
NFIW is of the view that the statement is a communal- fascist one that is not only targeting the Muslim community, but it is also an indirect call for violence against Muslims, said Annie Raja, General Secretary NFIW.
“This advice has created an impression that the root cause of poverty in the region is population, and the Muslim community is the sole culprit for the same. By making a statement like this, the Chief Minister has washed his hands off any responsibility regarding governance or the inability of the BJP government in the state to deliver effective administrative reforms”.
The CM’s advice also reveals his strongly manuwadi patriarchal character and his misogyny. The statement implies that the responsibility of population control rests with women. It is an archaic, shameful, and chauvinistic statement, she said.
Mrs Raja reminded the CM that words matter the most as these may unleash genocide and who will own up the responsibility.
“It is a shame that the statement is coming from the august office of a CM, and not some rabid street goon. Is the CM aware of the responsibilities of his office? Does he realize the legitimacy that he is giving to stereotyping and communal hatred? Words matter, Mr. CM… Led by your hunger for power, these words may unleash genocide. Will you own up your responsibility, Mr. CM?”
In Assam’s total 3.13 crore population, Muslim comprises over 35 per cent who are mostly reside in central and lower parts of the state.
Even, the Central Government data on fertility rate strongly debunks CM Sarma’s claim on Muslim population in Assam. According to official data, Muslims in Assam have recorded probably the most dramatic decline in fertility since NFHS-3, which was performed 14 years earlier. The fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) of 2019-20 launched by the Union well being minister in December reveals that “immigrant” Muslim group has seen the sharpest fall in fertility since 2005-06.
In the recent Social Development report, Assam’s Economic development indices have come down further since the BJP assumed power in 2016.
If the state falls in the human development index or any other yardstick that measures development of the state, it is the duty of the CM and his cabinet to frame and implement policies that ensure an equitable distribution of resources, and not blame a section of the population, she said.
NFIW demands that the Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, immediately retracts the statement and issue an unconditional apology to the Muslim community and the women of Assam in particular, she asked.