Skyrocketing rise in Muslim population in northeastern India

The population explosion of migrant Muslims in Assam is a cause for concern. The growth of Islamic infiltrators has tripled than the Hindu population growth. Ten districts of this Northeastern State have became Muslim majority in three decades. It is now all set to become a Muslim majority state in next 4-5 decades. Writes Dibya Bordoloi

Exponential Muslim population growth is considered to be one of the major dispute Assam is facing for decades. Indigenous Assamese jumped into the six years long Assam Agitation led by All Assam Student Union (ASSU) from 1979 to 1985 to find a solution to this burning problem. But the longest agitation in India could neither have stopped the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh, nor it was able to control the vertical population growth of the Muslims in the state.

Due to the soft corner of the then ruling Congress towards the minority vote bank and the immaturity of the agitating student leaders, the main issue of the illegal infiltration and Muslim population growth remain alive as a mere election agenda for past 35 years in the state of Assam. As on date Muslims have a sizable population of 34.22 percent in Assam and by the next census takes place, it is expected to touch 37 per cent. During 2001 to 2011 the Muslim population growth in Assam was as high as 29.59 per cent and it has not shown any decline in the following decade too. Even though this growth is much higher than the national average and almost triple higher than the Hindu population growth in the state, raising questions on it is almost like you have done a crime for a section of our society. These so called seculars will cry out louder to mute your voice on this issue. Saviors of the migrants always want to hide the true figures about the vertical population growth of the Muslims in Assam? But we will tell you the truth.

This whole issue again became the subject of discussion when Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma on June 10 appealed to the Muslims of Assam to adopt a standard population policy for a balanced society in the state. Dr. Sharma’s appeal was outrightly rejected by the minority leaders and so called seculars across the country. The same section tried to nullify the chief Ministers appeal sighting the National Family Health Survey (NFHS5) 2019-20, where it is said that Muslim in Assam have recorded decline in fertility. The report further said the fertility rate of Muslims in Assam has come down to 2.4 from 3.6. But still it is much higher than the fertility rate of the Hindus of the state which is 1.6.

According to the 1971 census report, the total Hindu population was 72.51 percent in the state of Assam against a total 24.56 percent of Muslim population. But in 2011 census the Muslim population in the state shot up to 34.22 per cent and the Hindu’s declined to 61.46 per cent. As a result, at least 10 out of 34 districts in Assam have become Muslim majority districts. Let me help you understand the figure by putting one or two examples of the green growth. In 1991, the lower Assam district of Barpeta had a sizable Hindu population of 40.26 percent against a 56.07 percent of Muslim population. But sadly in 2011 the Hindu population was down to 29.10 per cent in the same district and Muslims population increased to 70.74 per cent.

Barpeta is not the only district in Assam to face this doom. Darang, another lower Assam district has witnessed a huge demographic change in the past few decades. It was a Hindu dominated district till 1991 census with slightly over 60 per cent Hindu population. But in four decades the numbers have altered to mark it as a Muslim dominated district. Darang now has almost 65 percent of Muslim population. The changes are not only confined to the lower Assam districts. There has been a sharp increase of Muslim population in the middle Assam too. Two middle Assam districts Nagaon and Morigaon became Muslim majority districts between 2001 and 2011. It has been noticed that during this decade the Muslim population growth in Assam was almost triple of the Hindu population growth.

During 2001 to 2011 overall India’s population growth decreased to 17.64percent from 21.54 percent in the previous decade. The Muslim population growth in India was also down to 24.60 percent from 29.50 percent in the previous decade. But ironically during the same period the Muslim population growth in Assam sky rocketed to 29.59 percent against a total growth of 10.90 percent of the Hindus. This was much higher than the population growth even in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the growth rate is 14 and 20 percent respectively. Muslim leaders and their political masters try to justify the growth saying that lack of education is the reason behind the population boom. But one can’t justify this logic if they analyse the population pattern of the tribals in Assam. Despite lack of education and other facilities, their population growth is one third of the Muslims. For the clarity of our readers let me describe the chronology of Muslim population growth in Assam in one table.

If we carefully observe table 1, it is very much noticeable that the Hindu population is constantly in decline post 1971. But compared to that Muslim population in the state in on constant rise and the growth was almost double during 2001 to 2011 compared to the previous decades. Even the 2021 census is yet to be done, it is expected to see similar growth in the Muslim population in last ten years. The increase of unbelievable numbers of voters in some of the Muslim dominated constituencies in 2021 Assam assembly election is enough evidence to prove the growth. The high percentage of growth was recorded in just 5 years, that is between 20016 and 2021, and these constituencies have 95 or above percentage of Muslim voters.

Now if you compare this (Table2) with some of the Hindu dominated constituencies of Assam, you can distinguish the difference between Hindu and Muslim population growth in Assam. It is alarming that between 1971 and 2011, the Hindu population has declined almost 9 percent in the state. Comparison of table 2 and 3 shows how the Muslim population growth has reach an alarming position in the state. Now it has reach such a point that, it causes a serious threat to the identity and language, culture of the indigenous people of the land. In last two decades, people have witnessed some serious demographic change in the state, due to unbelievable population growth of the Muslims. Illegal influx from Bangladesh continues to increase the numbers especially in the bordering districts of lower Assam and Barak valley. Even though it has come down since 2014, the damage has been done already. The much anticipated update of NRC taking 1971 as a cut off year couldn’t justify the urge of the indigenous people for an infiltrator free Assam. Demand for updates of NRC taking 1951 as base year is on the rise in the state after a disappointing outcome from the ongoing NRC process. Chief Minister of Assam Dr. Himanta Biswa Sharma already said that the government is in favor of 20 percent revision of the NRC at least in the bordering districts of the state. With the surge of population, the immigrant Muslims have occupied vital resources of the state. Illegal encroachment of land belonging to the Satras, which were established by Mahapurush Shankardev and his disciples, is done by migrant Muslims for years. Even though the BJP government has started the process of eviction, thousands of acres of land are still being illegally occupied by the migrant Muslims. Along with the resources, political rights of the indigenous are also at stake for the aggression of the immigrant Muslims. In last three decades, at least 44 assembly constituencies of Assam have become Muslim dominated and they are now the deciding factors in these constituencies.

Political rights of the indigenous have been diminished here forever. The numbers are growing in each election. The section of so-called seculars who wants to deny the fact of exponential Muslim population growth in the shadow of NFHS-5 are circulating some self-contradictory logic. The NFHS reports shows that the fertility rate of Muslim women is still much higher in comparison to Hindu women in the state. The report further says that the fertility rate of bellow 18 girls is still very high amongst the Muslims, which is one of the reasons for the population explosion of the community. Moreover NFHS is more or less a sample survey only. It is worth to mention that there are almost 26 lakhs Assamese speaking Muslims in Assam and they are termed as indigenous Muslim. These Muslims have adopted the Assamese culture and civilization for decades and follow a decent population policy. If the NFHS combines these indigenous Muslims with the migrants in their survey than the fertility rate might show some decline. But that doesn’t reflect that the Muslim population explosion has defused all of a sudden in Assam. The triple rate of Muslim population explosion in the state could lead Assam to be a Muslim majority state in the coming four or five decade, which will be the ultimate setback to the crore of tribal and indigenous Hindus of this land.

Dibya Bordoloi is a Guwahati based journalist

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