Guwahati: Amid his insistence on a population policy with a two-child norm and adoption of “decent” family planning norms by Muslims to eradicate poverty in the northeastern state, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday held an interactive meeting with intellectuals and leading citizens of the Muslim community.
After the meeting, the Chief Minister said that the Assam government would form eight sub-groups with representatives of indigenous Muslim community to deliberate on issues such as health, education, skill development, preservation of cultural identity, financial inclusion and empowerment of women.
Around 150 Muslim intellectuals and leading citizens of the community from eastern and central Assam took part in Sunday’s meeting titled ‘Alaap-Alochana: Empowering the Religious Minorities’.
Sarma said that he would hold similar such meetings soon with the intellectuals and prominent citizens of the Muslim community belonging to southern and western Assam as the culture and other religious patterns are dissimilar among Muslims of Assam’s different regions.
While forming the eight sub-groups, the Chief Minister said that there will be a Chairman from the community and a Member-Secretary from the government in each sub-group, which will come up with recommendations on their assigned matters after detailed discussion within three months.
“Based on the recommendations of the sub-groups, the state government will prepare a roadmap for empowerment of the indigenous Muslim population of the state which will be implemented over a period of five years,” the Chief Minister told the media.
An official statement said that the Chief Minister while speaking at the meeting said that the Assam government organised the interactive programme with a view to give a major push to inclusive development in the state. He said that the indigenous Muslim population being an integral part of the Assamese society needs accelerated development so that the community becomes a significant contributor in the growth narrative of the state keeping its cultural identity intact.
The statement said that taking part in the discussion, several eminent personalities of the community including Illias Ali, Eli Ahmed, Syed S.K. Alam, writer Wasbir Hussain, S.I. Ahmed, and Nekibur Zaman highlighted socio-economic issues affecting the indigenous Muslim population of Assam and made several valuable suggestions.
Minister of Minority Welfare Chandra Mohan Patowary, Education Minister Ranoj Pegu and MLA and Political Secretary to the Chief Minister, Jayanta Malla Baruah were also present in the meeting held at the Assam Administrative Staff College in Guwahati.
In a series of statements and speeches after taking over as the 15th Chief Minister of Assam on May 10, Sarma had said that his government would take specific policy measures to decelerate the growth of the minority Muslim population with the aim to eradicate poverty and illiteracy.
“Assam has been able to maintain its annual population growth at 1.6 per cent, but it is found in the 2001 and 2011 Census that the Muslim population is growing at a rate of 29 per cent (decadal). In contrast, Hindu population has come down from 22 per cent to 16 per cent and further reduced to 10 per cent during the latest censuses,” the Chief Minister had said.
He said that the high population growth caused poverty and illiteracy among the Muslim community. Muslims comprise 34.22 per cent of the 3.12 crore population of Assam, of which 4 per cent are indigenous Assamese Muslims and the remaining are mostly Bengali-speaking Muslims.
Muslim votes are a determining factor in at least 30 to 35 seats out of Assam’s total 126 Assembly seats. Of Assam’s 34 districts, 19 districts have 12 per cent or more Muslim population and in six districts (out of these 19 districts) the Muslim population constitutes 50 per cent or more.