ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Poison of Demographic Prejudice

India's demographic profile remains stable; it is only the fires of prejudice that are growing.

A fear that has been cultivated in India is of the majority being swamped by the minority “Other”: Hindus by Muslims. In Eastern India, the xenophobia has taken the form of a belief that a Bangladeshi influx is changing the demographic profile of the region. Across the rest of the country, a much older mythical fear is that the small Muslim minority will, in size, soon overtake the huge Hindu majority. It is claimed that Islam disapproves of any form of family planning and it is therefore just a question of a few decades (or even years) before Hindus become a minority in “their own country.” Until a few decades ago, such views were held only on the fringes; but since the late 1980s, aided and abetted by Hindutva groups, these have become mainstream views. The facts, if anything, increasingly show that the opposite is happening.

Take the case of the Census of 2011 population figures according to religion which were released earlier this week. Hindus now constitute 79.8% of the population, Muslims 14.2%, Christians 2.3%, Sikhs 1.7% and those of other religions and atheists making up the remaining 2%. The Muslim population of India grew by 2.46% a year between 2001 and 2011, which was indeed higher than the Hindu population growth rate of 1.68% a year. Yet, what is relevant for studying demographic changes is not this difference but how it has changed over time. The Muslim population growth rate of 2.46% between 2001 and 2011 was lower than the 2.95% recorded in the previous decade of 1991–2001. That of the Hindus too has declined, from 1.99% to 1.68%, respectively. But the decline in population growth is larger and faster among the Muslims. This is no surprise, rather it is common knowledge. Between 1992–93 and 2005–06, according to the National Family Health Survey, the fertility reduction among Muslims was as much as 30% while that among the Hindus was 20%. So much for Muslims not practising birth control or obeying religious diktats prohibiting the use of contraceptive techniques.

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