Distorting facts about Muslim population growth at the Digital Hindu Conclave CJP’s fact check segment finds no available facts that can back Bhandari’s arguments

23, Jun 2023 | CJP Team

Self-styled “media professional” Pradeep Bhandari distorts facts and data to paint Muslims as an imagined sinister enemy. The Digital Hindu Conclave was held in Indore on May 27, 2023. The event has come under scrutiny for promoting false information and divisive narratives. In particular, several claims made at the conclave regarding the demographics of West Bengal and the recruitment of constables have raised concerns about the spread of misinformation.

It is essential to separate fact from fiction and provide accurate information to foster informed discussions. We examine the claims made at the Digital Hindu Conclave and provide evidence-backed refutations to debunk the misinformation surrounding the Muslim population in Bengal, the alleged religious bias in police recruitment, and the ‘declining’ nature of the Adivasi population in Jharkhand. By bringing to you a robust fact check of these claims flagrantly made claims about very serious issues, we aim to promote a more accurate understanding of the issues and uphold the integrity of factual reporting.

CJP is dedicated to finding and bringing to light instances of Hate Speech, so that the bigots propagating these venomous ideas can be unmasked and brought to justice. To learn more about our campaign against hate speech, please become a member. To support our initiatives, please donate now!

Claim # 1: “In 1941, Bengal’s Muslim population was 29.48%, in 1951, it dropped down to 19.46%, and after that, it kept increasing. In 2011, it went to 27.01% and as of today’s date, it is more than 30 %.”

Busted: There seems to be little record to substantiate the claim that there are more than 30 % Muslims in West Bengal. Even in a united Bengal, prior to partition, the Muslim population has never exceeded 27 %. While most of Bhandari’s statements with regard to the Muslim population in West Bengal are almost backed by data (at least in this case), we must note that the objective of twisting available government data here seems to be to purely distort facts and create a false sense threat for people in the country by Muslims. 

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This narrative paints Muslims as a sinister enemy conspiring to conduct population/biological warfare on the rest of the Indian population. This may be a plausible explanation of why people like Pradeep Bhandari repeatedly bring up the bogey of the Muslim population ‘explosion’ or even cite rising Muslim data in certain parts of the country to create a false state of emergency in order to foment communal relations in India hoping that it could serve them as content for their news channels, transfer into votes, capital and so on.

Year  Hindu Population  Muslim Population  Other
1901 70.8  25.9  3.3
1931  69.9  26.6  3.5
1941 67.05 26.2 6.8
1951  78.7  19.4  1.9
1971  78.1  20.5  1.4
1981  76.9  21.4  1.7
2001  72.5  25.0 2.5
2011 70.54 27.01

Source: Census Data

West Bengal’s population growth rate was higher than India’s between 1951 and 1961, but later it caught up with the national rate. Since 1981, West Bengal’s population growth rate has been lower than India’s. Despite the rising number of allegations of ‘Muslim infiltration’, government projections and population statistics show that West Bengal’s population growth will become lower than India’s. 

Between 2001 and 2011, there has been a decline in population growth for both Hindus and Muslims in West Bengal. If there were large-scale Muslim immigration, there would not have been a decline for both communities in population growth rate. It is important to note that the population of Muslims dipped down significantly in the 1951 census records due to the formation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Consequently, it only began to increase at a quicker speed from at least 30-40 years after the independence and partition of Bengal. 

CJP’s Hate Buster segment has formerly analysed why all social and religious categories in India faced population growth after partition.

 West Bengal’s decadal growth rate was higher than India’s between 1951 and 1961, it gradually decreased and nearly equalled the national rate by 1971. Since 1981, West Bengal’s population growth rate has consistently been lower than India’s, with a significant difference observed in 2011. The population projections published by the Government of India also indicate that West Bengal’s growth rate will continue to be significantly lower than India’s in the future. 

To address accusations of ongoing Muslim infiltration, an examination of the growth rates of Hindu and Muslim populations in West Bengal and its border districts makes the situation clear – Between 2001 and 2011, the growth rate of Hindus decreased by 6.75 % points, while for Muslims, the decline was 4.27 % points. These figures demonstrate that the population growth rates of both communities have declined in districts bordering Bangladesh. Thus, the data refute claims of substantial Muslim infiltration in West Bengal.

Source: The Wire.

Even in non-bordering districts, both the Hindu and Muslim populations in West Bengal experienced a decline in population growth rates between 2001 and 2011. This indicates that if there had been significant Muslim immigration, such a decline would not have been possible. To delve deeper into the matter, population growth rates for Hindus and Muslims were calculated for each district, along with the difference from their respective state averages.

According to the 2011 Census, approximately 2.2 million people in West Bengal reported that their place of birth was in present-day Bangladesh. Half of these individuals originated from two districts, Nadia and North 24 Parganas. These individuals migrated from Bangladesh at different times and are now recognised as legitimate Indian citizens. It is important to note that the majority of these migrants are Hindus from marginalised communities.  Thus, we already have a count on how many Bangladeshis are here – and also their religious denomination.

Why do the poor procreate more?
Muslims in India have historically had poorer socio-economic outcomes than their non-Muslim counterparts, which has resulted in a cycle of low education levels, poor employment prospects, and limited access to basic amenities. One general impact of this cycle is the commonly held belief that Muslims tend to have larger families due to a lack of social security support in old age and as a result, overpopulate the country. However, there are factors other than religion that play a role in the number of children a family has and poverty has been noted to play a large role. Families often have a large number of children so that the children lend a helping hand in supporting the parents as they age as the parents have negligible or no savings, resources or social security benefits and live on a day to day wage basis. Socio-economic status, not religion, is key to smaller or larger families.

“Interestingly, places that have better socio-economic development indicators than West Bengal, such as Jammu and Kashmir, the fertility rate is less. In fact, Jammu and Kashmir has one of the lowest fertility rates in India. Similarly, the examination of fertility rates at the district level by The Hindu in West Bengal reveals that districts with better development indicators have lower fertility rates compared to underdeveloped ones. This indicates that fertility rates are influenced by development indicators rather than religious beliefs.”

Population Growth Rates in Several Districts of West Bengal. Source: The Wire.

Notably, the border regions of Bangladesh that share proximity with West Bengal also exhibit significantly lower fertility rates.

 According to the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18, Rangpur, Rajshahi, and Khulna divisions, which border West Bengal, have fertility rates of 2.1, 2.1, and 1.9, respectively. This data suggests that the entire Bengali-speaking region encompassing West Bengal, Tripura, and Bangladesh demonstrates relatively lower fertility rates. Therefore, the notion that Muslims have higher birth rates lacks empirical support and seems to be a direct result of prejudice.

Therefore sufficient evidence reported by The Hindu that in districts where the growth rate of Muslims exceeded the state average, the growth rate of Hindus also followed the same pattern. This suggests that if there had been substantial migration from Bangladesh into the border districts, the population growth rate of Muslims would have been higher than that of Hindus. 

Furthermore, this would not be the case if there were such migration, as claimed by many politicians, from Bangladesh into West Bengal. If such migration were taking place, the population of Muslims in the border districts would be significantly greater than that of the Hindus. This suggests that the supposed large-scale Muslim ‘infiltration’ from Bangladesh to West Bengal is not supported by the evidence. However, moving further, it is interesting to note that the marginalised, such as the poor or the Muslims, face stigma for having ‘more’ children. It is members and children from these families that continue to migrate and provide their labour for exploitative prices and contribute hard work only to be labelled as ‘Bangladeshis’, which is part of an endless cycle that continues unabated.

Furthermore, in West Bengal, only 2.77% of Muslim women reported that their husbands have more than one wife, while the %  is even lower at 2.05% for Muslim women across India. Comparatively, the figures for Hindu women are even lower, with only 1.64% in West Bengal and 1.44% in India reporting that their husbands have multiple wives. Hence, the data shows that a very small proportion of both Hindu and Muslim men engage in polygamy.

Claim #2: “In Bengal, police were recruited a while ago, 90% belonged to the Muslim community.”

Busted: Despite this claim being proven false by multiple media houses, Bhandari, himself a self-acclaimed media professional, made this statement at a public event that is available online too.

Claims have been circulating online alleging religious bias in the recruitment in Bengal, with 90% belonging to the Muslim community. Bhandari also seems to have regurgitated this misinformation at the Digital Hindu Conclave in 2023. 

Since the staged controversy unfolded, according to West Bengal State Commission’s data, the truth behind these claims has been uncovered without delay or doubt. The Quint also launched a detailed fact-check on the same. 

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The Quint’s investigation revealed that the claims were misleading, despite the ease and speed with which they were and continue to be propagated. The official results for sub-inspector recruitment showed different social categories, with the OBC category further divided into OBC-A and OBC-B. While one list labelled OBC-A (UB) had a majority of Muslim candidates, it is crucial to note that OBC-B – the other list – had a significant presence of Hindu candidates. Additionally, the lists for Scheduled Castes and Tribes did not show a disproportionate representation of any particular religious community.

The West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes’ website confirmed that most of the f Muslim castes, 72 out of 80. And  OBC-B included 40 Muslim castes out of a total of 91.

The claims of religious bias in Bengal’s police recruitment process are unfounded. The Quint’s fact-checking revealed that the majority of Muslim candidates were categorised under OBC-A, which is a specific sub-category within the OBC category. The presence of Hindu candidates in OBC-B and the absence of disproportionate representation in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes lists further refute the allegations of bias based on religion.

Claim #3: Population of Adivasis has declined due to Muslim Bangladeshi Immigrants.

Busted: The BJP and its supporters have time and again asserted that the presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has resulted in a decrease in the population of Adivasis Jharkhand. The BJP has even resolved to conduct “mini NRCs’’ in Jharkhand if they get elected. These campaigns are aimed at polarising the political environment and garnering votes. But do they hold any ground? 

The Adivasi population in the state of Jharkhand has experienced a decline over the period of 80 years, from 38% in the 1931 Census to 26.2% in the 2011 Census. The Adivasi population stood at 27.7% in 1991, 26.3% in 2001, and 26.2% in 2011. 

Food for thought.
Thus, while it is true that the Adivasi population has diminished off late, there seems to be no evidence that it is due to the intrusion of foreign populations in the state. If that were the case, it would be a direct law and order situation that would not escape any scrutiny  – if indeed it this claimed was based on facts, it would not just be a fable lesser-known saffron media personnel would be touting for sensationalist headlines in a conclave?

Why are Adivasi populations ‘declining’ in the state?

If we look at the analysis by a report by Outlook India Magazine, the claims of Bangladeshi in Jharkhand does not hold ground The magazine interviewed several academicians and journalists and rifled through census records and found that one of the main reasons the Adivasi population is declining is outward migration.

Many Adivasis, as well as locals from Gumla, Simdega, and Latehar districts, are leaving their hometowns and migrating to larger towns and cities due to high unemployment rates. Rising number of migrant labour is the cause.

“The Adivasi population is not declining; they are simply moving out. Due to unemployment, locals, especially from Gumla, Simdega, and Latehar districts, have been moving to bigger towns and cities for work” 

  • Kumar Oraon, a retired academic from Ranchi University, attests.

During the initial lockdown in 2020, the state department received numerous calls from around 1.1 million migrant labourers, including Adivasis, who were stranded in different cities after having lost their jobs. 

But why the outward migration? What is pushing Adivasis out of Jharkhand?

Jharkhand is a land full of resources. However, the corporate politics lobby and nexus clamour to capitalise on the resources and serve to exploit labour by the marginalised in Jharkhand. In addition to that, there is vast poverty and unemployment in the state. In addition to which, increasing mining and other industrial activities have led to a complete destruction of the livelihoods, hoons, and lives of the adivasi population, a majority of which have historically depended on the forest and natural resources to survive. These developments have been almost a death knell to the tribal population.

The unemployment rate in Jharkhand reached a staggering 59.2% in May 2020, and even in the following year, it remained higher than pre-pandemic levels. The total fertility rate in Jharkhand is 1.6 children per mother.

Jharkhand also faces the issue of poverty, with a staggering 42.2% of the population living in poverty, according to the NITI Aayog’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report released in 2021. Displacement caused by mining activities is another factor driving migration from the mineral-rich state. Over a period of 44 years, between 1951 and 1995, more than 1.5 million people were displaced in Jharkhand, with Adivasis and indigenous communities accounting for 80-90% of those affected. The Economic Survey of India data further reveals that Jharkhand witnessed a loss of nearly 5 million working-age individuals between 2001 and 2011 due to migration. During the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 850,000 migrant workers returned to Jharkhand.

Are there Bangladeshi Migrants in Jharkhand? What does the data say?

The Muslim population was 13.08 % in 2001 in Jharkhand. In 2011, it was 14.53, without any significant increase. Thereby, one can clearly see the sensationalist statements by BJP supporters have raised such data to polarise the situation in Jharkhand.

Thus the BJP’s claim that Muslim Bangladeshi immigrants are responsible for the decline in the Adivasi population in Jharkhand is unfounded and misleading. The actual decline in the population is due to external migration caused by high unemployment rates, poverty, and displacement caused by mining activities. The BJP’s tactic of spreading such misinformation serves to polarise the population and gather votes and is detrimental to communities already vulnerable to marginalisation. 

Santhal Parganas hold significant political significance as a stronghold for the ruling alliance of Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). The region is renowned for its substantial support to these political parties. Thus this fear-mongering could just possibly be another means of polarising the atmosphere for electoral victories.

Digital Hindu Conclave

In a recent gathering known as the Digital Hindu Conclave, held in Indore on May 27, 2023, speakers took the stage to address a controversial set of issues related to communalism and hate speech. The event provided a platform for fear-mongering and the dissemination of false information.

One of the speakers at the conclave was Kapil Mishra, a former Delhi MLA. During his speech, Mishra made baseless claims, suggesting that certain political parties were intentionally altering the demographic makeup of specific areas by manipulating population figures. Without providing any credible evidence, Mishra attempted to instil fear in the audience, fueling tensions and sowing discord.

In an alarming statement, Mishra highlighted the distribution of pamphlets promoting what he referred to as a “saffron love trap” in Indore. He raised concerns about Muslim women’s freedom to choose their partners, emphasising that they should have the liberty to marry individuals from different religions, at the same time hypocritically disregarding the same freedom for Hindu girls who might choose to marry outside their religion. Mishra cited the film “The Kerala Story”, banned in several Indian states to allegations of it being propaganda-laced and anti-Minority, to support his argument, alleging that the film exposed the alleged exploitation and forced conversions of Hindu girls, leading them to engage in terrorist activities. He asserted that the supposed lies about the so-called saffron love trap needed to be debunked.

Another speaker, Pradeep Bhandari joined Mishra in spreading divisive rhetoric. Bhandari questioned why a significant minority of voters placed religion above development when it came to their voting choices. He argued that while the majority of the population sought progress and change in 2014, a ‘notable minority’, presumably intended to mean Muslims, seemed to prioritise religious considerations over the overall development of the nation, as he began to villainise Muslims in his speech henceforth.

Who is Pradeep Bhandari? 

Pradeep Bhandari, founder of “Jan Ki Baat”, a digital media company specialising in election predictions, hosts the highly popular prime-time show “Janta Ka Mukadama,” which airs on weekdays at 8 PM, primetime at India News. Prior to joining India News, Bhandari held the position of consulting editor at Republic Bharat

However, in February 2021, he resigned from his role at the network. Self-identifying as a psephologist, Bhandari was under fire in February 2023 by the Tripura branch of Congress for breaching the Model Code of Conduct by predicting BJP’s victory prior to the result.

Bhandari catapulted into the spotlight in 2020 through his coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. Yet for this very coverage Bhandari found himself in deep waters. According to a report by Newslaundry, the lawsuit filed by 38 Bollywood producers and film associations against certain media houses for their coverage of the “drug mafia” angle in the Sushant Singh Rajput case highlights the problem of irresponsible and sensationalist reporting by sections of the Indian media.

The lawsuit alleges that channels like Republic TV and Times Now conducted “media trials” of Bollywood personalities and violated their right to privacy through baseless reporting. Prominent journalists named in the suit include Arnab Goswami, Pradeep Bhandari, Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar. The producers argued that the media coverage has caused irreparable damage to the reputation of the Hindi film industry. According to Newslaundry, the lawsuit is an attempt by Bollywood to rein in the excesses of media trials and sensationalist reporting by some television channels. 

Jan Ki Baat features video segments surrounding the BJP’s electoral wins and losses, the Congress’s hold over the ‘Hindu vote’, and Bhandari’s speech at the DIC also features here titled “Is there a conspiracy to change India’s demography?”, once again showing the side of saffron media whose aim is to purely distort facts, paint the BJP in a good light and promote it always, and –along the way –never forget to spew prejudice about India’s minorities.


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