STATING THAT it is his party’s policy to differentiate between Hindu and Muslim migrants, Assam Minister and convenor of the BJP’s North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday asked the people of the state to choose their enemy — “the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people?” While he did not elaborate on the figures, Sarma seemed to be referring to Hindu and Muslim migrants as he was replying to queries on the opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Assam.
Although there are no official figures of Hindu or Muslim migrants from Bangladesh in Assam, political groups often claim that the state has about 55 lakh Bangladeshi migrants. The reference to “1-1.5 lakh” people, however, does not match any known figure. “The whole thing is that we have to decide who our enemy is. Who is our enemy, the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people? The Assamese community is at the crossroads. We could not (save) 11 districts. If we continue to remain this way, six more districts will go out (of our hands) in the 2021 Census. In 2031, more (districts) will go out,” said Sarma, pressing for the Bill. While Sarma referred to “11 districts”, the 2011 Census identified nine districts as areas with Muslim majority, up from six in 2001.
He asked those opposed to the Bill to find out which community threatened to reduce the Assamese to a minority. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill proposes to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis facing persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh and entering India without any valid document. Asked if it was the BJP’s policy to differentiate between Hindu and Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Sarma said, “yes, we do”. “We clearly do. After all, the country was divided in the name of religion. Thus it is not a new thing,” he said. “There has been no analysis about whether we are becoming a minority from the linguistic aspect or religious aspect, or from a combined attack of both language and religion. That is why we must now decide who to go with in order to save ourselves,” said Sarma.
“When we go to Dibrugarh or Tinsukia (districts) we feel very good, because we are in a majority there. But do you feel good when you go to Dhubri or Barpeta (districts)?” he asked. Both Dhubri and Barpeta are among the Muslim majority districts. Sarma said the BJP wanted to protect the Bengali-speaking Hindu migrants and wanted to keep them segregated from the Bengali-speaking Muslim migrants. “We want the Bengali-speaking Hindus to remain with the Assamese people. That is the BJP’s viewpoint. It has not changed. It has been the same, both before and after elections,” said Sarma. “Does secularism mean that the satras have to move out of their original places? Does secularism mean some people will snatch away land belonging to Batadrava satra? Does secularism mean some people will encroach upon land in Kaziranga and Pobitora (wildlife sanctuaries),” said Sarma.
Sarma was speaking to the media after the release of his latest book, Anya Ek Dristikon. BJP leader Ram Madhav was also present on the occasion.