Sarma speaks at the event in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Oct. 6: Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today said granting Indian citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh would benefit Assam as it would prevent Muslims from becoming the majority in the state.
Sarma, who is one of the most influential ministers in the Sarbananda Sonowal cabinet, told The Telegraph on the sidelines of an official function here this afternoon that Muslims already constitute 32 per cent of the state’s population because of largescale migration from Bangladesh.
“Hindus constitute about 68 per cent of the state’s population. Considering the rapid population growth, particularly among immigrant Muslims, the community is all set to become a majority in the state. Under such circumstances, granting citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh will prevent Assam from becoming a Muslim-dominated state,” the minister said.
Sarma, who joined the BJP last year and had played a crucial role in ensuring a landslide victory for the party in the last Assembly polls, had recently faced flak from various quarters for his statement that the Assam Accord of 1985 could not be a ground for refusing to take the burden of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is passed by Parliament.
The Assam Accord stipulates that anyone who entered the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971, must be detected and deported.
The citizenship (amendment) bill, once passed, will pave the way to grant citizenship to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh.
Exactly a week after Sarma, who according to the Opposition and other non-BJP organisations has tried to polarise the state on the basis of Hindu and Muslim migrants, said a “rainbow alliance” comprising Assamese Hindus, Bengali Hindus and indigenous Muslims would save Assam from becoming an immigrant Muslim-dominated state.
Asked by The Telegraph about opposition from the AGP, a partner in the BJP-led government, Sarma said differences of opinion in a coalition government were natural and it would be dealt with accordingly. The AGP makes no distinction between Hindu and Muslim illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Sources said though granting citizenship to Hindu migrants was a poll promise by the BJP, the Sonowal government is yet to make its official stand clear after the state witnessed widespread protests on the issue. But an executive meeting of the BJP held at Rangiya in Kamrup district yesterday asked the Sonowal government to fulfill the party’s poll promise to Hindu migrants.
The BJP meet clearly said the government should not change its stand because of pressure from the Opposition.
The AASU and the Congress remain committed to their earlier stands to respect the Accord.
“It would be interesting to see how chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was anointed as Jatiya Nayak of Assam by AASU for his fight against the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act that was finally struck down, reacts to this assertion of his ministerial colleague,” a senior Congress leader said.
The Assam PCC today accused the BJP-led government of not being sincere in updating the NRC. A press communiqué issued by the PCC’s senior spokesperson Kishor Kumar Bhattacharjya said a funds crunch has stalled the updating process.