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New Delhi: Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday told the state assembly that the government was planning a “population army” that would distribute contraceptives and spread awareness on population control in Muslim-dominated areas.
“Around 1,000 youths from the char chapori (riverine sand bars) will be engaged to create awareness about population control measures and to supply contraceptives. We are also planning to create a separate work force of ASHA (accredited social health activists) workers who will be tasked with creating awareness about birth control and also supply contraceptives,” he said, according to NDTV.
“If population growth among Hindus in Assam was 10% from 2001 to 2011, it was 29% among Muslims,” Sarma claimed.
“Owing to a smaller population, lifestyle of Hindus in Assam has become better, with spacious houses and vehicles, and children becoming doctors and engineers,” he continued.
Muslims account for 34.22% of Assam’s total population of 3.12 crore, according to the 2011 Census.
Several BJP-led states, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Assam, have recently been pushing the idea that population control is necessary through legal changes. UP has even published a draft Bill that implements a two-child policy, saying those in violation will not be granted benefits of government schemes and won’t be eligible for government jobs.
As The Wire has reported, laws like this are likely to have several consequences – including a rise in female foeticide, unsafe abortions and selective targeting of communities. The “rising population” bogey has often been used by the Sangh parivar and its associates to target the Muslim community, building a false narrative that Muslims plan on becoming the majority in the country.
Nayantara Sheoran Appleton, senior lecturer at the Centre for Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington, explained in The Wire Science that this is not the reality:
“… the idea of a ‘population explosion’ lends credence to the country’s already surging anti-Muslim sentiment. This in turn has been erected on false concerns that the population of Muslims in India is quickly outpacing those of Hindus, fanned by communal statements by prominent political leaders. However, the TFR [Total Fertility Rate] among Muslims is falling rapidly, faster than it is among Hindus.”