Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday asked the Muslim community in the state to adopt a “decent family planning” policy to deal with poverty and other social problems, the Hindustan Times reported.

“We want to work with the minority Muslim community to control population,” he said, while speaking at a press conference to mark the completion of 30 days of his government. “The root cause of issues such as poverty, land encroachment etc, lies in uncontrolled population growth. I think we can put an end to a lot of social problems in Assam if the Muslim community adopts decent family planning norms.”

Sarma said that his government will work towards educating the women of the community so that the problem can be tackled effectively. The chief minister said that his government cannot allow encroachment of temple and forest lands and members of the community have also assured the government that they do not want encroachment of these lands, he said, according to PTI.

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 Hindus comprise 79.8% of the population while Muslims make up less than a fifth, at 14.2%.

Meanwhile, Sarma on Thursday, also said that the Assam Assembly would pass a new law against illegal cattle smuggling in the next session. He said that the existing laws do not consider transit of cattle coming from other states through Assam as illegal.

Sarma took oath as Assam chief minister on May 10 after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance won a clear majority, winning 75 of the 126 seats in the recent Assembly elections in the state.