By Tushar Singh
The Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Giriraj Singh. courted controversy recently when he contended that “social harmony gets fractured whenever Hindu population drops“, a veiled attack on the phenomenon of rising Muslim populace in the country. Mr Giriraj said, “The growing population of the country, especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country.” Giriraj Singh is not new to courting controversy through his statements. Previously, he said that the difference between cow and goat meat is similar to the difference between a sister and a wife, and during the 2014 election year, he asked all those who didn’t support Narendra Modi to leave India and settle in Pakistan. During the recent Padmavat(i) controversy he had said, “Does Sanjay Leela Bhansali or anyone else have guts to make films on other religions or comment upon them? They make films on Hindu gurus, gods, & warriors. We won’t tolerate this anymore.”
A hole in the religious fabric
This is not the first time that a BJP member has called the rise of the Muslim population in the country more of a threat than a problem. Comparisons are being drawn between Singh’s view and those of his ilks, including BJP leader Banwari Singhal, who alleged that Muslims were bearing more children with an aim to outnumber Hindus and to take control of the country by 2030. Sakshi Maharaj had, in the earlier days of the Modi government, made an appeal to Hindus in the country to bear more children in order to counter the rampant rise of the Muslim population.
In a country where population rise is a rampant issue, three questions come to mind. Firstly, why is the Muslim community almost always exclusively targeted on the issue of population rise? Secondly, is the Muslim population rising in India only or is there a global trend? Lastly, is the rapid rise in Muslim population a threat?
Why is the Muslim community targeted?
The answer is very simple and lies in the fact that the rise of Islam is considered a threat by the Hindu nationalists. Historically, India had been a Hindu-majority country. Ancient India consisted parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, all of which are Muslim majority countries today. Modern India is the last chunk of land which has a Hindu majority. Using this logic, a rise of the Muslim population is seen to be in correlation with the rise of influence of Islam on modern India. Moreover, concepts like Ghazwa-e-Hind, which feature in Islamic texts make many right-winged Hindu nationalists worried about the intentions of conservative Muslims. It is feared that India, according to classic Islamic law, will one day be classified as Darul Islam (where there is the rule of Sharia) from Darul Harab (where leaders are called on to accept Islam).
Another fear stems from the examples of certain pockets in India where there is a Muslim-majority population. Apart from the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir where Pandits were thrown out of the valley, pockets often referred to as “Mini-Pakistan” or “Chota Pakistan” have come up sporadically across the country—from Mumbai to Kolkata. While the word “Chota Pakistan” may come to use for different reasons (like demography), there is a chance that some of these pockets are called so because of an increasing anti-India sentiment in these regions. In 2016, hours before the assembly polls, Bengal Urban Minister Firhad Hakim triggered a huge controversy when he described Garden Reach in Kolkata as “Mini-Pakistan” to a Pakistani news reporter.
Rise in Muslim population: global or an Indian trend?
The Muslim population is rising at a faster rate than all other religions not just in India, but throughout the world. Islam is sure to become the largest religion very soon, and India to become the country with the largest Muslim population and yet have a Hindu majority (so much for diversity).
Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate: 3.1 children per woman and the global average is 2.5 (Hindu fertility rate is 2.4, just above the replacement level of 2.1), primarily due to the young age of Muslims, their median age being 23. In the US, according to Pew Research Centre, Islam will overtake Judaism as the largest non-Christian religion.
Is it a threat?
The Muslim population in India is currently the third-highest and is set to become the highest by 2050. Muslims in India have a much higher total fertility rate (TFR) compared to that of other religious communities in the country. Because of higher birth-rates, the percentage of Muslims in India has risen from about 10% in 1951 to 14.23% by 2013. The Muslim population growth rate from 1991-2001 was higher by more than 10% of the total growth compared to that of the Hindus. However, since 1991, the largest decline in fertility rates among all religious groups in India has occurred among Muslims.
Many sociologists believe that the rise in Muslim population is because of socio-economic factors like poverty, lower mortality rate, lack of education, early marriage of Muslim women, and unemployment relative to other religious considerations. Calls for Hindus having more kids are unfounded because it doesn’t solve the real problem. More so, there is no urgent threat of the Muslim population overtaking the Hindu population according to the Sachar Committee, formed by Dr Manmohan Singh’s government to look into the social, economic and political conditions of Muslims in India in 2005, which said that the Muslim population growth has slowed down and will be on par with national averages. The Sachar Committee Report estimated that the Muslim proportion will stabilise at between 17% and 21% of the Indian population by 2100.
A call for parity
While it may seem unrelated at first, can high conservatism be linked to lack of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) which allows Muslims to follow Sharia? It is conservative in nature and does not allow the mind to be liberated. Giriraj Singh is not 100% correct. Muslims are not a threat. Conservatism, from all sides, is. Reforms to liberate the mind, like the UCC, will help (just like Hindu Code Bill improved the lives of many Hindus); however, the real change can only be brought about when the society realizes that everyone is a part and has always been welcome in this great country, and no force is strong enough to break it down. BJP might as well focus on the economy.
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