Hindus ‘Dying Out’ & Muslim Population ‘Exploding’? Fact Vs Myth

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

Way back in 1908, UN Mukherji wrote a book titled Hindus: A Dying Race. The book, as the title suggests, painted a gloomy picture of Hindus in India. Despite being riddled with several inaccuracies, as several scholars pointed out subsequently, the book was applauded by several Hindu organisations in the then undivided Bengal.

The next 111 years since the publication of the book have proved how the predictions were nothing but the figment of the author’s wild imagination. In the ten decades since then, the population of Hindus in the country has grown five times, from a little over 20 crore to nearly 100 crore now. Despite mounting concrete evidence to the contrary, fans continued to propagate the distorted idea of the book, that is, the ‘doomsday’ scenario for Hindus in India.

Also Read: India’s Population Solution: Should We Punish or Plan Better?

  • In the decade gone by (2001-2011), the growth rate of the Muslim population fell by a good five percentage points as against the drop of 3 percentage points for Hindus.
  • National data hides wide regional variations that clearly suggests that the real villain is social backwardness and not so much religious affiliation.
  • Muslims in Kerala have fewer children than that of Muslims in UP and Bihar, and the same rule applies to Hindus also.
  • Instead of a new population control legislation, should we not be focusing on creating social and physical infrastructure like the ones created by Tamil Nadu and Kerala to arrest population growth?

‘Explosion’ of ‘Muslim Population’ is a Myth

Now, several messages are floating around indicating the necessity of a population control legislation so that the so-called ‘dying race’ continues to have an upper hand in India. The central theme of scare-mongering now is the perceived ‘explosion’ of population of Muslims in the country.

Is there an explosion really taking place? Facts, once again, do not support such claims. Sample some:

  • In the decade gone by (2001-2011), the growth rate of the Muslim population fell by a good five percentage points as against the drop of 3 percentage points for Hindus.
  • In the preceding decade (1991-2001) too the growth rate Muslim population fell more than that of Hindus. Which is to say that in the last two decades, the pace of deceleration of Muslim population has been higher than that of Hindus. It is true that while the growth rate of Hindu population started decelerating in the 1980s, that of Muslims began to fall down ten years later. That is the reason why the pace of growth for the two communities has been slightly different, with Muslims being slightly on the higher side still as the theoretical demographic transition in the community got delayed by almost a decade.

Also Read: Dear PM Modi, Let’s Not Mix ‘Population Explosion’ & Patriotism

Social Backwardness Is the Real Villain

National data hides wide regional variations that clearly suggests that the real villain is social backwardness and not so much religious affiliation. In the whole of south India, for instance, the average annual growth of the Muslim population stood at 1.6 percent in the last decade, which is significantly less than the national average of 1.9 percent. The rates in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are less than the south Indian rate. Muslims in Kerala have fewer children than that of Muslims in UP and Bihar, and the same rule applies to Hindus also. Isn’t this data indicative of the fact that female literacy and better social infrastructure are the most effective contraceptive?

  • There are eight states and union territories where the population of Muslims is in excess of their national average of 14.2 percent. In four of them, the population growth is less than the national average. In Lakshadweep, which has Muslim population in excess of 90, the growth rate is one of the least. Does it say something?
  • Among the large states, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have Muslim population growth rates in excess of the community’s national average growth rate. Bihar and UP have been the outliers all through.
  • Even from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, good news has begun to come in. The decadal growth fell for the first time in Bihar and UP between 2001 to 2011. The drop was an impressive 6 percentage points in the case of UP, and 3.5 percentage points in the case of Bihar. What is more, the median age of marriage now in Bihar and UP is almost at par with states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Based on these evidences, demographers have begun to say that the two states are likely to attain the total replace fertility rate of 2.1 percent faster than what was anticipated earlier.

Also Read: PM’s I-Day Speech: Art 370 Done. What’s Next — Population Control?

What We Can Do Instead of Focussing on Population Control Legislation

Let us not forget that ours was the first government to have framed a population control policy way back in 1952. We began to see its impact from the 1980s onwards. Now that we are close to attaining the replacement level, what is the need for a new law? That too inspired mostly by the research done by ‘WhatsApp University’.

There is no denying that the size of our population is definitely at an elevated level. We have a young population that could easily have become a dividend if only had a conducive environment in place. At a time when we should have been focusing on female literacy and empowerment, we are wasting our time on discussing distorted messages generated by ‘WhatsApp University’.

Instead of a new population control legislation, should we not be focusing on creating social and physical infrastructure like the ones created by Tamil Nadu and Kerala to arrest the population growth if indeed we are serious?

Even if highly desirable, we know that is not an easy agenda to pursue. And such a journey, if pursued earnestly, does not lend itself to WhatsApp forwards that can confuse and polarise the people.

(Mayank Mishra is a senior journalist who writes on Indian economy and politics, and their intersection. He tweets at @Mayankprem. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed in this article are that of the writer’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

. Read more on Opinion by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsDespite Sec 144 in Jamshedpur, Anti-CAA Voices Remain Undeterred . Read more on Opinion by The Quint.