Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said that his administration was planning to depute 10,000 additional Accredited Social Health Activists to solely work on providing birth control measures in riverine areas of the state, reported Guwahati Plus.

In the Assam Assembly, Sarma said that a “population army” would be created in the areas. As many as 1,000 local youth would be deployed to raise awareness about matters such as birth control measures and child marriage.

“The discussions on the cultural identity of indigenous Muslims and Muslim communities of char-chapori regions will be held separately,” the chief minister added. Assam Minister of Welfare of Minorities Chandra Mohan Patowary said the government was planning the discussions with the communities to ensure inclusive development of the residents.

“If population growth among Hindus in Assam was 10% from 2001 to 2011, it was 29% among Muslims,” Sarma said, according to ANI.

He claimed that the rise in Muslim population had resulted in poverty and created pressures related to land among the community.

“On the other hand, lifestyle of the Hindus improved due to decline in population growth,” the chief minister said, according to Deccan Herald. “But the pressure on land compelled many Muslims to settle in forests and government land resulting in conflicts. So, there is a serious need for population control among Muslims.”

Sarma’s comment is in consonance with a conspiracy theory propagated mainly by the Hindu right-wing, which suggests that the fertility rate among Muslims in India is much higher than that in the Hindus. While the total fertility rate and decadal rate of growth among Muslims in India is higher than that of the Hindu community, the data comes with caveats.

The last Census in India, held in 2011, showed that while from 1991 to 2001, the Indian Muslim population grew by 29.3%, in the period 2001-2011, it grew by 24.4% – a fall, therefore, of almost 5 percentage points. The Census data also showed that the growth rate of Muslim population in India slowed more sharply than that of the Hindu population.

The Muslim population, as per the data, grew at a faster rate than the Hindu population, but the gap between the two growth rates has narrowed. The Census data showed that in India, Hindus comprise 79.8% and Muslims 14.2% of the population.

On Monday, Sarma said his government aims to improve the lives of the Muslims in the state by controlling the rise in the population. He added that his administration has already approved nine colleges and he planned to sanction about 15 more colleges in the char-chapori regions.

The Assam chief minister also asked the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front to tackle the population explosion in the state.

On June 10, Sarma had asked the Muslim community in the state to adopt a “decent family planning” policy to deal with poverty and other social problems.

Earlier in July, the Assam chief minister said that intellectuals from the state’s indigenous Muslim community agreed on the need to control population in parts of the state. He had held a meeting with 150 intellectuals and academicians to discuss his government’s two-child policy and the development of minority communities.

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