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NRC IN ASSAM! Did you know even British rulers were concerned about immigration in Assam?

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It is surprising, but it is true that illegal immigration from different neighbouring area, specially from East Bengal or East Pakistan had afflicted Assam from colonial times. Since a majority of these immigrants were Muslims, the influx even changed the demography of Assam. In 1931, CS Mullan, Superintendent of the 1931 Census, wrote about this influx in Assam. He writes: “Probably the most important event in the province during the last 25 years, likely to alter permanently the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilisation, has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry Bengali immigrants, mostly Muslims from the districts of eastern Bengal.” He even backed his statement with numbers. 

In 1881, Muslims accounted for a mere 9%, increased to 19% in 1931 and 23% in 1941. In 1939, provincial governments of Assam, headed by Sayeed Mohammed Saadullah, opened up grazing reserves of the state to settle immigrants under a ‘grow more food’ campaign. Lord Wavell, the British Viceroy of India, during his 1943 visit to Assam, said: “The chief political problem in Assam was the desire of the Muslim ministers to increase the immigrant population into the uncultivated Government lands under the slogan of Grow More Food, but what they were really after was Grow More Muslims.”

The 1951 census estimated the number of migrants from East Bengal at around 1 million to 1.5 million — between one-tenth to one-sixth of the total population of the state. That’s the main reason why the NRC was first prepared in 1951. However, there is no account of what happened to those who were excluded from the 1951 NRC. Between 1951 and 1961, the state’s population leapt by 36% and by 35% in the next decade as against national decadal growth of 22% and 25% respectively. In his report of 1963, the Registrar General of Census said 2,20,691 illegal immigrants had infiltrated into Assam.

There was a big surge in this influx after the war between India and Pakistan in 1971 when Bangladesh was liberated. The 1971 Census revealed an increase of 8,20,000 Muslims in Assam — 4,24,000 more than what could be accounted through natural increase. Between 2001 and 2011, India’s Muslims grew from 13.4% to 14.2% — while in Assam, they grew from 30.9% to 34.2%. 14 of Assam’s 27 districts have shown higher population growth than the state’s average of 17% with Muslims as a majority in nine of them. Even voter numbers in Assam grew by more than 50% in less than a decade!