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

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Making Sense of Demography in India

Religion, Fertility and ‘Common Sense’

The sectarian forces in India have kept politicising the population growth of Muslims not on the basis of demographic correlates but on the basis of a pernicious propaganda that stereotypes popular common sense perceptions. These ill-founded notions are so often repeated that these have become part of the popular common sense, normalising the falsification of “reality” created by sectarian forces of either religious affiliations. Why are these mythical constructions increasing despite the fact that the authentic empirical data sets—Census, National Family Health Surveys—negate the same?

The myth of Muslims outnumbering Hindus and the Hindus becoming a minority in India is not new. This propaganda has been used by sectarian forces since the dawn of the previous century. The Hindus: A Dying Race, a book written by U N Mukherji in 1909, is an ironic testimony. In consequence, these forces have had a long time for their ideas to become part of the social common sense (Puniyani 2004: 69). The rhetoric and slogans of sectarian forces generally move around Muslim population growth and in unison try to present an opaque picture of Muslim demography in order to sustain the latter’s hegemonic constructions around religion and fertility. The sectarian forces have kept on politicising the population growth of Muslims not on the basis of demographic correlates but on the basis of a pernicious propaganda stereotyping popular common sense perceptions (Jeffery and Jeffery 2006: 1; Shahid 2014: 152). Valenta (2012) rightly noted that one of the crucial aspects of the debate about Muslims in India is the inverse relation between the intensity of the discussion and the paucity of the empirical facts (p 35).

In India, the seemingly common strategy is to use religious identity as a singular marker for constructing an “us” versus “them” debate (Sen 2006). Such a fictitious and highly perilous binary of “us–them,” undoubtedly thrives on propagating the mythical population out-growth of one group in contrast to another. It rests on creating the illusion of a “greater” destiny of one group against the other.1 This is illustrated, for example, in the statement that the population of Hindus in India is declining while that of Muslims is increasing and that soon the Muslim minority will become a majority and in the democratic game of numbers they would eventually rule over the then Hindu minority (Shahid 2015: 2). This is a chimerical thing that is hoped for but is in fact illusionary and impossible to materialise. But these ill-founded notions are so often repeated that these have become part of popular common sense,2 normalising the falsification of “reality” created by the sectarian forces of either religious affiliations.

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Updated On : 15th May, 2017
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