GUWAHATI: Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (CAB) would “stabilize” Assam’s population.
“The CAB will help stabilize Assam’s population or else, power will go to (Lok Sabha member) Badruddin Ajmal,” Sarma told journalists in Guwahati.
His oblique reference was to the alarming rise in Muslim population in the state. The statement is a reflection of what the BJP’s critics have been saying all along that through the CAB’s passage, the BJP-RSS wants to keep intact the state’s Hindu population.
Sarma underscored how the Assamese and other indigenous communities were fast losing the political space to the Muslims in Lower Assam districts including Barpeta, which was once the seat of Vaishnavite culture. According to the Census of 2011, the Muslims account for a little over 34% of Assam’s population. They are in a majority in 11 of the state’s 33 districts. The authorities of National Register of Citizens (NRC) had received applications for inclusion of the names of 3.30 crore people.
Sarma criticised Samujjal Bhattacharya, who is the chief advisor to All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), for the latter’s silence on the rising Muslim population saying “they (AASU) have already accepted that Ajmal will be the Chief Minister of Assam one day. However, we will not allow that to happen”.
Ajmal is also the president of minority-based All India United Democratic Front which is the third-largest party in the Assam Assembly after BJP and its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
Sarma said an estimated “three to four lakh people” (read Hindu Bengalis) in Assam would get citizenship by virtue of the CAB’s passage. Over 19 lakh people were left out of the NRC.
While insisting on a healthy debate on the CAB, he said, “There was Hindu civilisation in India and it will always be there. Only Hindu civilisation can ensure secularism. No non-Hindus had to migrate to Pakistan (from India)”.
He came down heavily on the protestors who are baying for his blood as well as that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, AGP president Atul Bora and others.
Sonowal said the BJP had committed to granting citizenship to the persecuted immigrants since 1980.
“The people should not be afraid of the CAB. Through the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the interests of the Assamese and other indigenous people will be protected. We want the high-powered committee of the Clause 6 to submit its report early,” he said.
The Clause 6 says: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
Sonowal appealed to the protestors not to misinterpret the CAB.
“We are trying to protect greater Assamese community. No immigrant, who came after December 31, 2014, will be considered for citizenship,” Sonowal said.