Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday warned against medical and engineering seats in the state being dominated by “Ajmal’s people”, The Indian Express reported. The comment was an apparent reference to coaching for competitive examinations provided by the Ajmal Foundation, run by All India United Democratic Front chief Badruddin Ajmal.
“If it continues this way, Assam’s medical and engineering seats will be taken by who? Ajmal’s people,” Sarma said at a public meeting in Lakhimpur. “We have no objection to them studying and taking the seats. Take 20-30%. But if they take all, it will hurt us, won’t it?”
The chief minister added that in order to stave off such developments it was important to create an envioronment for education in Assam. “Whatever issues you have, you bring them to me…Tribal, non-tribal, indigenous Hindus and Muslims, everybody’s issues we have tried to address,” Sarma said, according to The Indian Express.
Since taking over as chief minister of Assam in 2021, Sarma has made several comments that can be seen as communally offensive and biased against Muslims.
On Friday itself, Sarma used the term “Hussain Obamas” in a tweet. He made the comment in response to a journalist who asked if a first information report has been filed in Guwahati against former United States President Barack Obama after he said that India risks “pulling apart” if the government does not protect the rights of its ethnic minorities.
At the Lakhimpur meeting on Friday, the Assam chief minister also said that the draft delimitation proposal released by the Election Commission earlier this week would protect interests of the people of the state, The Indian Express reported.
“If this draft is approved and comes into reality, then the people of Assam will be dominant in 102 constituencies and the people of Assam will be able to elect their representatives,” he said.
Sarma’s reference to “people of Assam” is very much at the root of the anxieties that the delimitation exercise has sparked among the Bengali-origin Muslim community of Assam. Many fear that the exercise could lead to further political marginalisation of the community, often vilified as “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh.