Rising Muslim Population?

Hindus in Danger

Ram Puniyani

In the 2024 general electionsModi’s propaganda was built around the falsehood that ‘if the INDIA alliance comes to power they will give all the facilities to Muslims, they will ensure that Muslims have the first right to live and they will make changes in the Constitution whereby Hindus will become second class citizens’. Quite an Orwellian method, where reality is made to stand on its head. A fright is being spread amongst Hindus that Muslims will get away with all the privileges.

To add to this propaganda now Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMECA) has come out with a report that concludes that Hindu's population share declined by nearly 8% between 1950 and 2015 while Muslim's share grew a record 43% in the same period. As per this study in 1950, Hindu population share was 84%, but it came down to 78% in 2015. However, in the same period, the share of minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs, went up. The number of Jains and Parsis in the population mix decreased.

What is this PMEAC? This was constituted in 2017 and is supposed to be doing research to advise the Prime Minister on economic matters. One sample of its ‘research’ came to light a couple of years back when its Chief, BibekDebroy, quoted “… a study to show that the lifespan of written constitutions is just 17 years. Further terming the present Constitution of India as a colonial legacy, he wrote, “Our current Constitution is largely based on the Government of India Act of 1935. In that sense, it is also a colonial legacy.”

And now came this strange study during general elections. This boosts the anti Muslim rhetoric and the “Hindu Khatremeinhai” scare created over many decades. The three researchers, who produced this, have violated most of the norms for analysis, to come to this conclusion. To begin with demographic studies are based on population census. This one is based on the survey of nearly 23 lakh people, from Association of Religion Data Archive (ARDA) , a miniscule sample of India’s vast population. Census figures are more reliable and comprehensive, bringing out different facets of population growth. For reasons best known to the ruling party the 2021 census which was due has not been held and these researchers have used survey data rather than more reliable census data.

Then the study compares the population figures of 1950 with those of 2015, again an arbitrary method. The media and communal organisa-tions are using this data to intensify prevalent divisive propaganda. It reinforces the present social understanding that Muslims produce more children. To begin with it was popularised by the Prime Minister when he was chief Minister of Gujarat. While deciding to close down the refugee camps where Muslims had taken shelter, he called them,’ Children Producing Factories’. In the present scenario he is merrily shouting from the house tops that Congress will snatch away Hindu’s Mangal Sutra and Buffaloes and give it to those who produce more children.

What is the truth of the number of Children produced by Muslims? One of the best parameters for this is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). According to a National Health Family survey the fertility rate amongst most communities is coming down. In 1992-93 it was 3.3 for Hindus and 4.41 for Muslims. In 2019-21, it was 1.94 for Hindus and 2.36 for Muslims. The percentage change for Hindus is thus -41.21% for Hindus and - 46.49% for Muslims. The decline in percentage is more amongst Muslims than Hindus. This shows that if such a pattern continues the rate of Muslim population growth will further fall down and become close to that of Hindus.

This is an interesting pattern. The permanent question is whether fertility rate is determined by religion or other factors. The sectarian nationalists have harped on the fact that Muslims are deliberately increasing their population vis a vis Hindus so that they will be a majority in this nation and will declare India as Gazava-e-Hind (Conquest of India by Muslims)!

This is one of the major falsehoods of communal politics to state that Hindus will become a minority if this pattern continues. The first point is that the factors influencing the number of children in a family are determined by two major things. One is the level of poverty and second is the rate of the literacy of community as a whole and that of women in particular. This is amply clear when one compares the rate of fertility Muslim of Muslim women in Kerala, Kashmir and Karnataka, with the TFR for Hindu women in Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It is lower for Muslim women in these states.

An important study by SaswataGhose points out that “Thus, comparing state-level fertility differentials between Hindus and Muslims as estimated from Census 2011 and Census 2001, it can be ascertained that though the overall convergence of fertility between Hindus and Muslims has been underway, significant regional variations persist in the process of convergence since different states and religious groups are at different stages of transition”.

As per S Y Quraishi, whose book on the issue ‘The Population myth: Islam. Family planning and Politics in India’ is quite a comprehensive account of the issue, in 24 of the 29 states of India. TFR is already coming close to 2.179, the one indicative of a stable population, 2.1 is a mere replacement level.

It is estimated that the Muslim population which is 14.2 % as per 2011 census will stabilise to 18% by 2050 and will stay put there as the trends amongst Muslim community show. The decadal rate of Muslim population growth also shows a substantial decline.

Irrespective of the immaculate studies, the communalists in various ways mock the Muslim community. Here is one instance where a team of Muslim elite sought an appointment to talk to RSS Sarsanghchalak. Dr Quraishi was a member of the team. He presented Bhagwat with his book which debunks the notions spread by RSS Combine. But in a statement a few weeks later Sarsanghchalak stated that there should be a ‘balance in population’ among different communities!

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Vol 56, No. 50, Jun 9 - 15, 2024