The Central Government has told the Supreme Court that the apprehensions of the petitioners in pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act of 1955 about demographic changes in the State of Assam are correct. Though the Center is opposing the petitions, the Center's stand on the petitioners' grievances about demographic changes due to large-scale migration to Assam from Bangladesh was conveyed to the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Thursday.

During the earlier hearing, the petitioners had submitted, relying on reports, that by the year 2040, Hindus will become a minority in the state of Assam.

"The analysis is based on district-level census data of Assam during 1951 to 2001. The result shows that the proportion of Muslim population has been rising rapidly in some districts, whereas the Hindu population is declining and losing their share in all districts of Assam. The change of religious composition has been projected by using polynomial curve fitting and it is found that Hindu and other religions may become a minority in Assam after 2040, in comparison to the combined proportion of Muslim and Christian population", Senior Advocate Shyam Divan had submitted before the Supreme Court during the hearing on Tuesday.

The Constitution Bench consisting of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant, Justice MM Sundresh, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra is presently examining the legitimacy of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act of 1955, specifically concerning illegal immigrants in Assam. In 1985, Section 6A was introduced into the Citizenship Act of 1955 as a special provision addressing the citizenship status of individuals falling under the purview of the Assam Accord. According to this provision, individuals who migrated to Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, from specified areas such as Bangladesh, and have continued to reside in Assam since that period, are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

On Thursday, SG Tushar Mehta started his submissions on behalf of the Center by stating that "So far as the ground realities which are pointed out by the Petitioners are concerned, that this influx of immigrants from foreign countries, they eat away, to borrow their words, My Lord, the resources which were otherwise available to them, there are less opportunities, less job opportunities, there is demographic change, etc. My Lord, all their concerns are true".

He clarified that although the apprehensions of the petitioners are valid, declaring Section 6A to be unconstitutional is not the solution. "There is a problem. There is a serious problem. There is an ongoing problem. But 6A is confined to a particular period of time, and declaring it to be unconstitutional, would not be the solution to this problem", he told the Court.

Shyam Divan had also told the Supreme Court that "According to the 2001 census, the various religious groups living in Assam and India, respectively are 64.9 and 13 80.5% Hindu, 30.9% and 13.4% Muslim, 3.7% and 2.3% Christian and 0.5 and 3.8% other religions. It is seen that the proportion of Muslim population in Assam is significantly higher than that of the country as a whole. Strikingly Assam occupies a second position after Jammu and Kashmir in terms of the proportion of the Muslim population in the country. It is seen from Table 1, that during '51 to 2001, the Muslim population increased by 6%, whereas the Hindu population declined by 7.2%. The percentage change of Christians and other religion during this period are 1.7 and -0.5% respectively. This significantly high growth of Muslim population in the state may be due to the consequence of large scale Muslim migration from Bangladesh and also the prevalence of high birth rate. As a consequence of the slow improvement of socio-economic conditions amongst the Hindus, the natural growth rate of the population amongst them has declined to a great extent in the state during this period".

Divan also submitted before the Constitution Bench that "It's a matter of grave concern because if the change of proportion of religious population continues with this trend, then it is possible that the Assamese Hindu, becomes a minority in their own State. In present study from the statistically projected trend, it is found that the Hindu and other religion will become a minority in comparison to the combined proportion of the Muslim and Christian population after 2040".

Quoting S. K. Sinha, former Governor of Assam, Shyam Divan also told the Supreme Court that it is only a matter of time before a demand is made to merge Assam with Bangladesh. Divan quoted the former Governer thus: "The silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in a loss of geo-strategically vital districts of lower Assam. The influx of illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim majority region. It will then only be a matter of time where a demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made. The rapid growth of International Islamic Fundamentalism may provide the driving force for this demand. In this context, it is pertinent that Bangladesh has long discarded secularism and has chosen to become an Islamic State. Loss of lower Assam will sever the entire landmass of the Northeast from the rest of India and the rich natural resources of that region will be lost to the nation."

It is in this background that the Solicitor General told the Supreme Court that the concerns of the petitioners are true. The Court had accordingly directed the Union Government to provide comprehensive data on the influx of illegal migrants into Assam and the North-Eastern states post-March 25, 1971. The CJI had also directed, "Details shall be furnished in regard to the action taken for border fencing carried out and the steps Union government intents to take with estimated timelines to complete the exercise of border fencing."

"So, we want to know from the Government of India, what are we doing now? Because, this is not just about changing the demographics of Assam. That's one aspect; the cultural aspect which Mr. Divan highlighted, but also the burden on the existing resources", the CJI remarked during the hearing.

On the contrary, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal and others argued that demographic changes cannot in manner affect the rights of the petitioners. "Demographic change can never be the basis of saying that my culture has been impacted. Can never be, as a matter of constitutional law. Why? Because Part 3 of the Constitution is enforcement of rights. Article 21 is the preservation of rights. 29 is the preservation of rights. There's a constitutional distinction between the two. They are people of different cultures, different traditions, maybe different languages. They are entitled to preserve it. Nobody has infringed that. Their argument is, it has been infringed demographically. An argument that has no basis in the Constitution. They have to show violation", Sibal submitted.

"The Muslim population percentage showed it had increased. So, all these are very complex issues. How is this Court going to determine all this and come to a conclusion that this is violative of 29?", Sibal argued.

Advocate Indira Jaising argued that the petitioners have not been able to demonstrate demographic change. "The only data that has been provided is the increased proportion of Muslims as compared to the average rate of growth of population in the State of Assam. But the data shows that the growth rate of Muslims is lesser than that of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in those states. Also, growth rate on Muslims in Assam is lesser than an MP, Maharashtra, Haryana", she submitted.

Sibal also submitted during the hearing that Assam was originally part of Myanmar, a claim that has been refuted by others.

The Supreme Court will continue hearing the batch of cases on Wednesday.