RSS rides on vax drive to make inroads into Assam’s Muslim belt

GUWAHATI: Making inroads into the Muslim-majority belt of lower and western Assam, burdened with the tag of “illegal immigrants”, was always going to be a difficult proposition for a right-wing organization like the RSS. But Covid-19 vaccination gave the Sangh activists a rare opportunity to reach out to people and also make their presence presence felt, breaking the religious barrier.

Proving the vaccination myths wrong, the members of (SCM), an RSS-affiliated forum active along international borders, have opened the doors of its district office at South Salmara- Mankachar district, which has about 95% Muslim population, for immunization. “Today, we are going to vaccinate around 300 people in our session site. We are serving humanity, not people from a particular religious belief. About 95% Muslims will benefit from this session site,” said Dilip Roy, vice-president of the SCM’s district unit. After vaccinating around 55,000 of 3.5 lakh estimated 18+ people in the district as of Saturday, is marginally above West Karbi Anglong, which is at the bottom of the tally. “Our goal is to vaccinate maximum number of deserving citizens at this hour. Our affiliation has not hampered our drive to assist the health department to inoculate more and more people,” Roy added. The district office of SCM in an Assam-type house located in Mankachar town main market, barely 500 meters from the Bangladesh border. It is being thronged by a large number of people since morning. There is no communal hatred in this busy commercial hub of the district, as evident in the activism by both Hindus and Muslims, who are guarding the vaccination centre. “The role of SCM is indeed commendable as they opened the doors of their office so that we could vaccinate maximum people,” said district immunization officer Dr Sirajul Islam. Islam added that South Salmara-Mankachar has been one of the two Assam districts which recorded lowest vaccination till recently. Several consignments of the prized jab were even returned to other districts when there were few takers due to vaccine hesitancy here. “But the scenario has changed in just two months with support from organizations that have joined hands with the health department to change the mindset of people,” he said. The elected leaders of the minority groups have announced a sop of five-kg free rice to bring hundreds of unlettered people to the vaccination centres in the district. To infuse consciousness, as expected from an Indian living in the border, Roy said their forum is tirelessly working in eight districts, close to Bhutan and Bangladesh in Assam. The presence of foreign spies in the guise of commoners is also undeniable in these districts, where intelligence agencies always keep a tab. But Covid has compelled organizations like the SCM to solely focus on vaccination drive this pandemic. The fear of untimely death within two years after vaccination had gripped the people in this part of west Assam, which was a hurdle for carrying out vaccination. “It was extremely difficult to overcome the myth till May,” Islam said. He added that they countered this myth by saying that Covid may take their lives even before, if they roam around without getting the jabs. The district has attempted sensitization by engaging noted personalities of the district, anganwadi workers, principals of educational institutions, teachers and village headmen to eradicate the myths, Islam said. President of Kushnimara-Jordanga gram panchayat, Beauty Halima Mandol, said, “I offered five-kg rice to many families for getting vaccinated. Slowly, people of the area started believing that Covid-19 vaccine don’t cause any harm. Hardly anybody in my Seemanta Chetana Mancha South Salmara-Mankachar 05/07/2021 RSS rides on vax drive to make inroads into Assam’s Muslim belt | India News – Times of India… 2/2 area faced side-effects of the vaccine.” She added, “Vaccine stocks are vanishing fast. People are searching for Covid vaccine today but there is no supply.