NEW DELHI

AGP demands photo ID cards for religious minorities

GUWAHATI, MARCH 17. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has demanded that all those who came to Assam before March 25, 1971, and their descendants be given photo identity cards to remove the feeling of insecurity among the religious minorities in the State.

It also wants issue of patta (permanent settlement) to "char" dwellers (inhabitants, mostly immigrant settlers, of large sandbars in the heart of the Brahmaputra). Nearly six per cent of Assam's land is covered by char with a total population of about 24 lakhs, the majority of them religious minorities. Though the char residents (2,251 villages) contribute 50 per cent towards the GDP and agro economy of the State, about 70 per cent are still living below the poverty line.

The stand of the AGP was spelt out by its president, Brindaban Goswami, while inaugurating a two-day conclave of religious minorities which ended here today. More than 1,200 delegates from different parts of the State attended the conclave.

History distorted

The AGP leader said that unless the socio-economic conditions of the religious minorities with a total population of more than 80 lakhs improved, Assam could never progress. He alleged that during Congress rule, the positive contribution of the religious minorities, particularly the Muslims, was never highlighted in the history textbooks and the community was sought to be identified with Mughal invaders.

Citing an instance, Mr. Goswami said the Ahom General Lachit Barphukan who defeated Mughal invaders in the battle of Saraighat was encouraged to attack at the right moment by two Muslim heroes of Assam. But this fact was never highlighted in the textbooks. Such suppression of facts and negative projection of the religious minorities had added to their fears. He accused the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party of playing politics with their problems and keeping alive the fear of social security among the community.

Mr. Goswami said the AGP acknowledged the fact that the immigrant settlers of chars had not only blended with Assamese society but also contributed richly towards it. But when they had to shift to places like Guwahati due to the erosion in chars where they had been living for ages, their citizenship was doubted by many.

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