NEW DELHI, Jan 22 � In a development that is bound to stir controversy in the State, the Muslim population in Assam has recorded the highest growth rate of 34.2 per cent in the country up from 30.9 per cent recorded in the 2001 census.
According to a report in a national daily, though the overall Muslim population in the country has decreased to 24 per cent from 29 per cent, Assam has emerged as the only state in the country, which has witnessed an increase in population. However, Muslim population is still higher than the average national growth rate of 18 per cent.
The religion data of the census report of 2011, has so far been kept under wraps on the orders of the previous UPA Government. But the NDA Government has reversed that decision and cleared its publication. The figures are now expected to be released shortly by the Home Ministry. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week approved the proposal of the Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli in this regard.
�The most rapid rise in the share of Muslims in the total population was witnessed in Assam,� the national daily reported, quoting sources.
The report said that Assam recorded the highest increase in share of Muslims, from 30.9 per cent of the state�s population to 34.2 per cent, while Manipur was the only state to show a fall in Muslim population. Lowest rise was in Meghalaya, Odisha and Arunachal (0.1 percentage points).
Other states that showed high increase in share of population are Uttarakhand (2 percentage points), Kerala (1.9), West Bengal (1.8), Goa (1.6) and J&K (1.3).
Jammu and Kashmir (68.3 per cent), Assam (34.2 per cent) and Bengal (27 per cent) have the largest share of Muslims. Significantly, Tripura, another state bordering Bangladesh, has recorded a marginal growth of 0.6 per cent from 8 per cent in 2001 to 8.6 per cent in 2011.
The daily reported that the most rapid rise in the share of Muslims in the total population was witnessed in Assam. While no reasons were cited for the sharp increase of Muslim population in Assam, illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is expected to be the prime reason behind the unusual decadal growth rate.
The neighbouring infiltration-hit West Bengal has also registered a rise in the share of Muslims in total population from 25.2 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent in 2011.
The latest census figures are likely to stir the hornet�s nest in Assam, as illegal migration from Bangladesh is a hotly debated political issue in the State. The matter has reached the Supreme Court as well.
The high growth of Muslim population in Assam has been intensely debated and has been a source of political confrontation. Recently the Supreme Court finalised the schedule of update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), considered an essential tool for detection and deportation of the illegal migrants, who entered the State after the cut-off date of March 25, 1971.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to curb the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
�The Centre shall take all steps to complete fencing of the Indo-Bangla border. Vigil along the riverine boundary will be effectively maintained by continuous patrolling and installing floodlights. Such part of the international border, which has been perceived to be inhospitable on account of the difficult terrain, will be patrolled and monitored at vulnerable points, which could provide means of illegal entry.
The completed part of the border fencing will be maintained and repaired so as to constitute an effective barrier to cross-border trafficking,� the Supreme Court said last month.
Earlier, the Supreme Court while scrapping the controversial IM(DT) Act in 1998, had described the illegal migration as an external aggression.