It's a myth that Muslims will make Hindus a minority in Indiatext_fields
The Hindu right-wing governments, their supporters, and a large section of mainstream media are again raking up the controversial issue of the "rising" Muslim population. On social media and elsewhere, the hateful propaganda is rife that the minority Muslims marry four wives and beget dozens of children.
Their rumour machine has again become active. They are trying to create a fear among the majority Hindus that the minority Muslims are deliberately increasing their number to change their demography. Recently, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the state assembly that his government would recruit a "population army", comprising 1,000 youths that would create "awareness" among Muslim-dominated areas. The army would also distribute contraceptives among the Muslim minority. But the minority fear that such a move will further create a ground for their harassment.
In north India, the extremist right-wing group, known as Karni Sena in Haryana, added fuel to the anti-Muslim narrative by saying that Hindus were being told to keep just two children, while Muslims were begetting ten to twelve children. The RSS also made a statement that the rise of the Muslim population was a well-thought plan to impose Muslim dominance and make India a new Pakistan. Sometime back, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath -- who is facing the ire of the people for his government's total failure to relieve the corona pandemic -- is now talking about bringing out Uttar Pradesh population policy 2021-2030. Political commentators believe that the talk of population control by the chief minister of the most populous state is a ploy to deflect people's attention from his government's failures. Next year, the state is going to the polls.
Many believe that the Hindu right-wing forces are desperate to polarize the voters. They know very well that unemployment, the corona pandemic, and the gasping economy are the major challenges before the country. Given their failures, Hindu right-wing governments are going back to their old method of laying all blame on Muslims. To keep their supporters glue to the party, they have to "wage war" or at least appear to wage war against "the other" of the majoritarian Hindu community. On the eve of the General Elections 2019, I asked one of my relatives why he was voting for the saffron party. His reply was that only they could "punish the Muslims". So that whole narrative of the population growth of Muslims and the need to control it is to maintain its anti-Muslim image. The communal propaganda is so loud that any argument based on facts gets lost in the din. In the wake of such a scenario, there is an urgent need to expose the lies and myths of the Hindu right-wing with facts and authentic data.
The secular forces must tell the people that the governments do not seem to have any authentic report or not have done sufficient homework before unveiling the population control law. Not to talk of non-Hindutva forces, even the houses of Hindutva forces are divided over it. The VHP has raised serious objections to the bill.
The first myth is that a Muslim man marries four wives and begets dozens of children. The rumour is that such a practice is permitted in the Quran and is protected under Muslim personal laws. The Holy Scripture indeed permits a man to marry four wives, but it also puts a condition on man. A Muslim man can marry up to four wives only when he can do "justice" to them. Even the government reports suggest that the cases of polygamy are least among Muslims. In a recently published book "The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning and Politics in India", former chief election commissioner S.Y Quraishi argues that "reports show that all communities in India are polygamous and Muslims are indeed the least so". Even if Muslims want to marry four wives, it is not possible in India. The sex ratio is 933 women to 1000 men. Only when there would be 4000 women per 1000 men can Muslims have four wives!
The second myth is that the Muslim population is growing very fast and will soon alter India's demography. The population growth rate of Muslims is fast declining. For example, in the year 2001, the growth rate of the Muslim population was 29 per cent, which came down to 24 per cent in 2011. Muslims indeed have a slightly higher rate of growth than Hindus, but soon it is likely to slow down. It is predicted that the rate of Muslim population growth will come to the level of Hindus.
The third myth is the Muslims are averse to adopting family planning. Compared to Hindus, Sikhs are far ahead in adopting such family planning. However, the book of S.Y. Quraishi shows that Muslims are not much behind Hindus in going for family planning. Does that make a Sikh more "patriotic" than a Hindu?
The fourth myth is that their religion inspires the population growth of Muslims. The growth of the population has less to do with religion and much to do with income, access to the health facility, literacy rate, and other secular factors. Even the regional factors, not religion, are important in studying population growth. Can religion explain why south India and Kashmir have slow growth rate than that of north India?
The fifth myth is the failure of governments to create jobs and launch welfare schemes is to do with the rising population. If giving jobs to 130 crores Indians is impossible, then where are the taxes collected from them being spent? Even a rickshaw puller, when he buys food items or tooth paste or shop other items, he pays taxes. Can it be denied that the big population of India has attracted foreign investments? Are not the reservoirs of cheap labour and big consumer market result of the big population?
In conclusion, we need to underscore the point that population growth is neither a bane all the time nor is it linked to religion. The population of Muslims at the time of Independence was around 9.8 per cent which increased to 14.2 in 2011. But it is also a fact that the growth rate of Muslims has come down sharply over the last few decades and their population growth rate is likely to stabilize very soon. The government is within its ambit to discuss and plan policies about family planning, but it should never look at it through a religious prism. The hateful talk of the "growth" of the Muslim population can work towards polarizing the voters and offering some gains to a particular political outfit. Still, in the long run it will strain the social fabric of the county. That is why the secular forces have no option but to confront the hateful propaganda with facts and logic.
(Abhay Kumar is a Delhi-based independent journalist and writer. Besides, he teaches Political Science and Urdu. His broad areas of interest include Minority Rights and Social Justice. You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)