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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Growth of Assam Muslims and foreigners 

The Milli Gazette Online 

In his rejoinder on the rate of growth of Muslim population in Assam, Mr. Mohd. Hasibur Rahman has made a valiant case but it is not convincing to maintain all growth as natural increase. Indeed Mr. Rahman himself admits the presence of some Bangladeshis. 

I am aware of the exclusion of some 3 lakh Muslim of Assam from Census 1951 because they had taken refuge in East Pakistan and returned to Assam only after the Census operation was over. But even if that group is included, the rate of Muslim growth over 1951-2001 and, what is more material, between 1971-2001 is much higher than the Hindu or the State rate. This cannot be explained with all the factors that Mr. Rahman has mentioned.

Muslims in some other States like West Bengal are socially, economically and educationally more backward than in Assam. Also the high rate of Muslim growth is more pronounced only in districts of Assam bordering Bangladesh.
The sudden rise and fall in decadal growth which can be due to extraneous factors can be ignored by taking a longer span as I have.

Let us not, therefore, take the untenable position that there has been no illegal immigration from East Pakistan/Bangladesh. We should take the position that the off-springs of the illegal migrants have a right to citizenship, that no one, only because he is a Muslim and speaks Bengali can be dubbed as Bangladeshi and deported, that identification must be in accordance with a judicial or quasi-judicial process; that there should be no discrimination against Muslims vis--vis Hindu migrants and that all illegal migrants should go back.

More importantly Mr. Rahman has wrongly advised the Bengali-speaking Muslims to adopt Urdu as their language. They should remain what they are, Bengali-speaking Muslims. The mistake they did after the 60s of declaring Assamese as their language should not be repeated. Adoption of Assamese did not save them from terrorization. Nor will adoption of Urdu.

Syed Shahabuddin

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