Shifting the Focus: From Infiltration to Population
By Upamanyu Hazarika
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s view expressed in the press conference given on the completion of 30 days of the 2nd BJP government that the primary reason for the population explosion in Assam is uncontrolled birth by the migrant Muslim community and the absence of family planning. He further said that the eviction operation of encroachers belonging to this community would not resolve the issue, the primary requirement being birth control. The Chief Minister‘s view suggests that migration and illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is not the primary cause for demographic changes, rather it is the lack of birth control measures.
This statement coming at this point is very strange and contrary to facts. If birth control were the sole means to restrict population growth, there was no need for the 6 years old Assam movement, NRC etc. The statement is factually erroneous for two reasons.
Firstly, over the last 30 years, Congress and BJP govt have given details from the floor of the legislature of the number of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh into Assam.
If Late Hiteshwar Saikia the then Chief Minister of Assam in 1992 gave a figure of 32 lakhs, Shri Prakash Jaiswal Union Minister of State for whom in the UPA government gave a figure of 50 lakhs, Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home in the first NDA government gave a figure of 80 lakhs infiltrators from Bangladesh in Assam in Nov 2016. This number has been consistently 25% of Assam’s population. The supreme court in its judgement in December 2014 in the case of Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, reiterated the figure of 50 lakhs given by the UPA government. Coincidently, Himanta Biswa Sarma has been a member of all the ruling party at the relevant time when these figures were given. Why did he not then question these figures at that time?
If the population explosion in Assam is due to uncontrolled birth and not due to infiltration?
Secondly, it has been found in a study by Prof Nandita Saikia of Jawaharlal Nehru University that even a higher fertility rate could not be the basis for the increase in the population of migrant Muslims from Bangladesh, most of it due to infiltration. The stand taken by the Chief Minister is also the stand taken by representatives of migrant Muslim from Bangladesh who seek to attribute their population explosion to a higher fertility rate and not due to migration. In fact, a national daily from Delhi today has published a news item rebutting the CM’s claim based on Union Health Ministry figures that the net fertility rate amongst migrant Muslim women in Assam has declined from 3.6 to 2.4.
It is relevant that the explanation trotted out by the Chief Minister is the same as given by Late Tarun Gogoi, then Chief Minister of Assam in an interview given on 10th of September 2012 where he stated that the demographic change in Assam is due to a higher birth-rate among migrant Muslims and not due to infiltration.
What is the purpose of the newly installed CM to make these kinds of statements? If last week he had debunked the Clause 6 committee report submitted by a committee appointed by the earlier government of which he was a part he then thereafter make a big announcement of all encroaches being evicted and backtracked now by saying that eviction is not the answer.
By mirroring the opinion of Tarun Gogoi, is he seeking to Congressise the BJP?
The writer is a Senior Lawyer in Supreme Court and convener of Prabajan Virodhi Manch (Assam)
The views expressed by the writer are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.