Intellectuals from Assam’s indigenous Muslim community have agreed on the need to control population in parts of the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday, according to India Today.

Sarma held a meeting with 150 intellectuals and academicians to discuss his government’s two-child policy and the development of minority communities, according to NDTV.

“We discussed various issues confronting the Assamese minority people,” Sarma said after the meeting, according to PTI. “All present in the meeting agreed that a population explosion in some parts of Assam posed a threat to the development of the state.”

The chief minister added: “If Assam wants to become one of the top five states in India, then we have to manage our population explosion. This was agreed by all.”

Sarma announced that eight sub-groups with representatives from the indigenous Muslim community will be formed to discuss health, education, skill development, cultural identity, financial inclusion and the empowerment of women.

The Assam chief minister said that the groups will come up with recommendation on the matters assigned to them within three months. “After this, [the] government] will prepare a roadmap for empowerment of indigenous Muslim community and implement it over next five years,” he added.

Sarma said that indigenous Muslims were an integral part of Assam’s society. “It [the Muslim population] needs accelerated development so that the community becomes a significant contributor in the growth narrative of the state (while) keeping its cultural identity intact,” Sarma’s office quoted him as saying, according to PTI.

Last month, the Assam government had proposed a two-child policy to avail benefits under certain government welfare schemes, The Indian Express reported.

“There are some schemes for which we cannot impose the two-child norm, like availing free admission in schools and colleges, or for houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana; everyone will get that,” he had said, according to the newspaper. “But, in the case of some schemes, say if a scheme like a Chief Minister Awas Yojana is launched in the future for the middle-class, then the two-child norm will be enforced.”

Sarma had added that the two-child policy was the only way to end illiteracy and poverty among Muslims in Assam, according to NDTV.

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