26, May 2023 | CJP Team
Claims about rising minority populations have run asunder for many years. Their function is nothing but to engender hate and suspicion. CJP busts this oft-spread myth and brings to you a hate buster to end all such claims.
This article is the first of a four-part series of Hate-Busters by CJP. It dives into alarmist claims made by far-right politicians, fact-checks, and presents them to you. Part 1 of the series examines and debunks the contents spoken by Supreme Court Advocate and former BJP Delhi Spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay, who has seemingly made alarming claims about Muslim and Hindu population growth in India. The Supreme Court has rebuked the advocate for repeated attempts to ‘target Muslims’ amidst other prejudice-laced legal measures. While these statements may be attributed to Upadhyay, the individual, they are but stray examples of an ecosystem of hate, generated, created, and sustained by money, right wing organisational power all coalescing into bedrock of wider party propaganda. Once generated in a speech, book or an ill-conceived PIL in the Supreme Court of India (remember the SC in earlier times dismissed his efforts with sharp rebukes six times!), they are unstoppable, take on a life off their own outside of the television, internet, and instant messaging applications. Their goal is clear, it is to further entrench hate in society.
Ashwini Upadhyay’ makes these claims in segment on a show titled “Is India Moving Towards Partition”, telecast by Capital TV with host and editor-in-chief of Capital TV, Dr Manish Kumar. The segment, in full, can be found here.
Claim: Muslim population growing by leaps and bounds, will overtake the Hindu Population.
Busted: Various studies show that the Muslim population is stable, fertility falling, and not expected to overtake the Hindu population. Based on current trends and the population data from 1947 onwards, there is a wide gap between the two populations regarding numbers. The Hindu fertility rate is stable, with the Muslim fertility rate declining, according to experts, it is an insult to people’s intelligence to suggest that a 13 % minority can overtake a population of 80 % of a hundred crore!
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Does census data back these politicians’ claims?
The last census conducted by the government of India was in 2011. Therefore, according to available data, the Muslim population in India is approximately 14.2%. This makes Islam the second-largest religion in India, after Hinduism, which comprises about 79.8% of the population – marking a considerably huge numerical difference between the two religious’ groups. Combining census data, NFHS surveys, and inputs from global think tanks, it is evident that alarmist claims by right-wingers are fallacious to say the least.
Let us take a closer look at population statistics in India.
Only in the former state, now union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and the Lakshadweep Islands is the Muslim population in majority.
In 5 states, the Muslim population is held to be significant, with the Hindu populace holding a majority. In 11 other states, the Muslim population figures were marginal, not even forming 5% of a state’s total population.
What would a world with Muslims becoming a majority in India look like? Would other populations see the same growth?! If yes, how would that bode for the world?
Statistics belie the claims Ashinwini Upadhyay raises. Scroll.in observes from census data that it would take an astounding 220 years for the Muslim population to become greater than Hindus in India – and if that happens, with 56 billion population of each group, 112 billion in total, it would signal a population density that would make it a cramped situation for the world!
According to Scroll, for every Indian Muslim, there are five Indian Hindus, and that number is slated to remain constant. For every Indian Christian, there are about 35 Hindus today.
That’s about the future. What about India’s past? As Upadhyay alleges, has any substantial population increase that might reveal a sinister conspiracy?
History does not seem to agree with Upadhyay. According to the reputed Pew Research Institute, a US-based think tank, India’s religious composition has been relatively stable in terms of growth rate since 1947. The report also notes that all religious and nonreligious groups saw an increase in population after independence in India due to various factors such as lifestyle changes, employment rates etc. However, no single religious group saw any exponential ‘explosive’ growth in population.
The Hindu fertility rate is also predicted to remain at the global average of 2.4 children per woman. On the other hand, National Family Health Survey – 5 (NFHS), released under the BJP government itself in 2022, reveals that the fertility of Muslims in India is on a stark decline, especially in comparison to Hindus. It has fallen by 50 % since 1993, even in union territories such as Jammu & Kashmir, where there is a relatively high population of Muslims the fertility rate for Muslims has dipped at an alarming rate and remains lower than Hindus in any state in India. Assam, where Muslims constitute about 35 %, has seen the biggest fall in fertility rate for the group since 2005-06.
Source: Times of India
Population projections by the Pew Research Institute based on current trends predict that by 2050 the Hindu fertility rate will remain at the global average of 2.4 children per woman. These statistics belie any claims Upadhyay makes of a declining population of Hindus, whether in terms of growth rate, or population growth – or fertility rates.
Why do the poor have more children?
The Muslim growth rate has been relatively high compared to the Hindu population. Based on current trends, statistical projection is certain that this growth rate is stabilising and will stop as it has declined over the years. However, this higher growth and fertility rate among Muslims have been stigmatised by social and political forces profusely even though it is sociologically and anthropologically established that the phenomenon is linked to economic deprivation and insecurity, not religion. Having a ‘lot’ of children is also generally associated with poverty. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes notably have higher growth rates than even Muslims. Poverty is often one of the factors at play. For parents who have no retirement benefits or sustainable work and are daily wage earners, having children provides them with help and support as they reach old age. Factors such as employment rates, female literacy, as well as developmental indexes also feature in as determinants. Non-discriminatory governance, access to quality primary and preventive health benefits, and a high female literacy worldwide is also linked with women having fewer children.
Thus, when we foreground Ashwini Upadhyay’s claims with government data, it is clear that a huge hue and cry around Muslim ‘overpopulation’, rising growths, and a diminishing Hindu community is nothing but a part of incendiary hate-campaign political parties aligned to the right are unleashing on the country and its secular ethos.
Who is Ashwini Upadhyay?
Ashwini Upadhyay has formerly also been spokesperson for the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, more than his political prowess, he is known for his voracious pattern of filing PILs (Public Interest Litigation) in the Supreme Court on matters mainly pertaining to communal issues. Upadhyay has filed PILs various PILs in India’s apex court, ranging from petitions to grant minority status to Hindus to demanding the name changes of several places named after Mughal rulers. According to a 2018 report by the New Indian Express, Upadhyaya holds a record of filing 50 PILs in 5 years. Many of his claims, especially on his social media, often seem to reflect a decided bias against Muslims and Christians. These claims, four of which have been debunked by CJP, often veer on the edge of misinformation and propaganda.
Here’s a detailed profile of the man himself
Hate needs to be busted both effectively and quickly. Widespread citizens involvement in stopping its spread is key.