55:45 Muslim-Hindu arrests in child wedding cases: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Wednesday said his government had ensured that an almost equal proportion of Muslims and Hindus was arrested in child marriage cases to ward off allegations of communal targeting, despite child marriage being “more prevalent in Muslim-majority areas”.

Sarma told the Assembly that he had got “some of our people” picked up too “because you all [Opposition MLAs] will feel bad”. He said the ratio of arrests of Muslims to Hindus since the February 3 crackdown is 55:45.

“The NFHS 5 [National Family Health Survey] data shows that the problem is highest in Dhubri and South Salmara [Muslim-majority districts]. Not Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. But because you communalise every single thing, I told the Dibrugarh SP to pick up a few from there as well. NFHS 4 data collated during Congress times also shows that the highest number of underage marriages and childbirths is done in Lower Assam districts [where there is a greater Muslim population],” he said.

Sarma also claimed that “Muslims in Assam have never lived as peacefully” as they are today. “Have there been communal clashes in Udalguri? Have there been communal clashes in BTR? [Bodoland Territorial Region]? Have there been communal clashes in Kokrajhar? Muslims in Assam have never lived as peacefully as they are today. They are all getting schools and colleges… Today people are accusing us that 60% of houses under PM Awas Yojna have gone to Muslims. The amount of roads that are being built in Muslim villages today have never been built before…” he said.

“Today if someone honestly asks how many minority people in Assam have died of communal attacks, you people keep talking about encounters. Are encounters something that gets done deliberately? Communal attacks are deliberate… If someone brings out their revolver, only then will the police bring out their revolver,” he added.

Accusing the Opposition MLAs of shedding “crocodile tears” for minorities in Assam, he said that the law under which people are being evicted from forest lands in the state’s continuing anti-encroachment drive had been passed by a Congress-led government at the Centre.

He added that the “real problem” is not evictions but of the lack of population control in Lower Assam districts.

“The main thing is that till the population is controlled in Lower Assam, we will stop having land… Even if I don’t do an eviction today, where will the next generation live if one family has eight children,” he said.

“This law was passed by a Congress government in 2005 that if before 2005, there were some tribal people living there in the forest, they will have rights there. And if before that, if 3-4 generations back, there were general caste people living in the forest, they will have rights to the forest. Nobody else can stay in the forest. Why did the Congress government not make a law that the way tribal people get deeds, our minority people will also get. Why do we not remember minorities when in power? Today if people from minorities face difficulties, I don’t have the responsibility of answering for that,” he said.