Kicking up Chimeras
Demography has come to be used as an effective tool for communal polarisation as could be seen by the release of the Census 2011 figures based on religious groups. The timing was to suit the Assembly elections in Bihar where the BJP is fighting a do-or-die battle to defeat the JDU-RJD-Congress’s Grand Secular Alliance. The Press Information Bureau (PIB), under the Union Ministry of Information, found no qualms in giving the statistics a communal twist with most Hindi dailies coming out with scary headlines trumpeting ‘huge rise in number of Muslims’.
It was not the first time a Government agency was doing it. The 2001 Census figures on religious population were released in 2005 and it similarly spoke of ‘Muslim population going up phenomenally’. The mandarins briefing the information heads had not bothered to check the facts properly. The rise then in 2000 was due to the fact that previous Census (i.e., 1991) had left out counting of heads in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir, two states with sizeable Muslim population due to insurgency in J&K and agitation in Assam. Obviously the number would go up substantially when figures from a Muslim majority region like Kashmir and sizeable numbers from Assam get added to the overall figures. It was only after considerable brouhaha that the Registrar of Census issued a clarificatory note leading to subsiding of the controversy.
The BJP-led Central Administration was obviously interested in its phobia-fanning foot soldiers in RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini kicking up the chimera of Muslims outnumbering the Hindus and succeeded to some extent. Its foul-mouthed trumpeteers were soon on their feet warning Hindus of their extinction and India turning into an ‘Islamistan’, something that even 650 years of Muslim rule could not achieve.
Surprisingly, the Central Government is averse to releasing caste data from the Census and is sitting tight over it for considerable period as it is all likely to evoke demands for readjustment—or even enhancement—of reservation quota for the SCs, STs, and the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Looked at from non-partisan angle, the Census data has nothing to set off alarms. It is true that Muslims’ rate of growth is slightly higher than other communities, but it is also a fact that it has come down and coming down much faster (4.9 per cent) than the Hindus (3.5 per cent). Similarly, the population decline is faster in populous states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar than other states.
It is also to be seen that Muslim rate of growth was higher in states where Hindu rate of growth too was higher and Muslim rate of growth was lower where Hindu rate of growth was lower. This can easily be explained in terms of efficacy of development and welfare by Government machinery. The fact that Muslim growth rate is on par with the Hindus in southern states implies that development and better health, nutrition, law and order and security for people can result in people being amenable to adoption of birth control measures and restricting the family size to their ability to manage it.
There cannot be a greater baloney that accusing the Muslims of pursuing a collective plan to alter the demographic structure of India with an eye over power. How could a community which cannot agree on a basic plan of modern education, reform in madrassa syllabus, amending its Personal Law on modern lines, can achieve a consensus on boosting its number secretly?