Assam Chief Minister Himanta Sarma on Wednesday said that Muslims make up 35% of the state’s population, and so they cannot be considered a minority, NDTV reported.

The chief minister made the comment during a debate on the governor’s address in the Budget Session of Assam Assembly.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “minority” as “the smaller part of a group; less than half of the people or things in a large group”.

“Today people from the Muslim community are leaders in Opposition, MLAs and have equal opportunity and wield power,” he said. “So, it is their duty to ensure that the rights of tribal people are protected and their lands are not encroached upon.”

Since May 2021, when Sarma became the chief minister, he has often made anti-Muslim statements.

For instance, on December 10, Sarma said that the 1983 massacre of 1,800 people in Nellie and surrounding villages had been avenged by the Assamese youth in September 2021 when the police shot two Muslim men dead during a drive against alleged “illegal encroachments”.

He has called for birth control for the state’s Muslims. The chief minister has also proposed renaming an area in Guwahati that is named after a 16th-century Muslim general.

On Wednesday, Sarma said that Muslims should refrain from encroaching on the lands of tribals living in Sixth Schedule areas, according to NDTV. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal communities through Autonomous District Councils in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

“If Bora and Kalita [Assamese surnames] have not settled on those land, Islam and Rahman [Muslim surnames] must also refrain from settling in those lands,” he said.

The minister further said that it was the responsibility of the Muslim community to protect the other minorities in the state and maintain communal harmony. “Power comes with responsibility,” he said. “Harmony is two-way traffic.”