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OnlineVolunteers.org, Web posted on September 21, 2002 (*)
Demographic Lies and Demonisation

By Ram Puniyani

One of the major factors in perpetuation of communal violence is the doctoring of the mass consciousness. The social common sense is manufactured in such a way that the targeted community is made to appear as the culprit. The classic case of 'Victim as Culprit'. And that's how so many myths percolate about the minorities. Apart from the Historical myths the one's related to demographics are playing a serious role in the demonisation of Muslims in particular. In a way what Mr. Modi said is nothing new as far as social common sense is concerned. Modi's statement during his Gaurav Yatra about Muslims, "We are five and we will have 25 offspring's.... For this, we have to teach a lesson to those who are increasing the population at an alarming rate.", has been resented even by the BJP top brass who at deeper level believe that what Mr. Modi said is true, it is this propagation, which has been done by communal outfits actively most of the time. And also these are the types of propagations, which are actively spread by the members of the progeny of RSS, the Sangh Parivar. So why this resentment against Mr. Modi by many a leaders of Sangh Parivar like Vajpayee and Vaikayya Naidu etc?

Sangh Parivar though deeply believes in this and propagates it, it is done in a way whereby the electoral wing does not have to resort to this propaganda making as the RSS, VHP, Bajarang Dal etc.are there to do this job, to prepare the fertile ground for electoral benefits for the Hindutva politics. The electoral wing, BJP, has to ensure that it keeps a neutral face to win over even the 'enemies' (Muslims, Christains and Communists) of Hindu nation, as defined by M.S. Golwalkar, the major ideologue of Sangh Parivar. While Mr. Modi out of desperation wants to ensure the post violence consolidation of Hindu votes, it may have adverse repercussions on the overall strategy of BJP, so this reprimand to the emerging Hero of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi. As such what are the facts behind the Ham Panch Hamare Pachis, (A derogarory reference to Muslims' attitude towards family planning etc.-We are five, one husband-four wives, twenty Children) Does demographic data support this construct, which comes in handy especially before the riots to build up the atmosphere. The census surveys by religion totally negate this firmly held popular belief. Religion is one of the markers used in these surveys. As per 1971 survey Hindus constituted 82.7% and Muslims 11.2% of the population. The corresponding figures for 1991 census are Hindus 82.6% and Muslims 11.4%. (Malayalam Manorama, 1992). The marginal difference in the growth pattern as we will see a bit later has more to do with socio-economic factors rather than the religious ones. Over all, this statistics shows a reasonably 'stable' (religion wise) population. That apart, even if the current differentials persist, it is not only unlikely, but also impossible for Muslim population to overtake the Hindu population for the next century or so. On the contrary if the prevailing growth rates are analysed, it will be clear that between 61-71 and 71-81,Hindu population increase went up from 23.71 to 24.42, while between the same periods Muslim population increase went down from 30.85 to 30.20. If these rate of growths are frozen at same level hundred years from 1981,Hindus and Muslims will record a decadal growth rate of 30.71 and 30.55 respectively i.e. growth rates of Hindus will be higher.

Similarly what about four wives to the Muslim male. Is it possible at all? On first count it is immaterial whether a man is having one or more wives as the total number of children depends on the number of women, which does not get influenced by polygamy. If at all, this number of women has more to do with the prevalence of social practice of female infanticide and 'bride burnings' in the areas where the practice of extortion by parents of 'grooms' called dowry is prevalent. Secondly, the male/female ratio cannot permit the 'luxury' of four wives to the Muslim males unless three-fourths (75%) of them go without marriage. As per 1981 census the male/female ratio for Muslims was 1.068 and for Hindus 1.072 i.e. for every 1000 Muslim females there are 1068 Muslim males. One has to conceive of gigantic mental acrobatics, in the light of these statistics, to believe that all Muslim males can have four wives. As such a slightly earlier but relevant statistics of polygamy (1961 census report) totally smashes the myth of Muslim polygamy, unless the social trends have worsened drastically, which obviously have not. As per this the incidence of polygamy is highest among the Adivasis (15.25) followed by Buddhists (7.9), Jains (6.72) Hindus (5.80) and lo behold, followed by Muslims (5.70). Research carried out by Mallika B.Mistry of Gokhle institute of Pune, concludes "there is no evidence that the percentage of polygamous marriage (among Muslims) is larger than for Hindus". A comparison of nuptiality patterns for Hindus and Muslims shows great similarity, the incidence of polygamy has been declining among both Hindus and Muslims.

From the above it will be interesting to draw the religion based fertility patterns. These patterns differ within Muslim community itself, they vary from region to region as per the socio-economic and educational levels of the community concerned. Those in the better socio-economic and educational ladder have lesser population increase, while those on the lower rungs of socio-economic educational ladder have higher rate of population growth. This conforms to regional, urban and rural distribution as well. Birth rates in Malabar region of Kerala, whose Muslim population is 40%, is significantly lower than those in Uttar Pradesh with a Muslim population of 15%. The contrasting case is that of Kashmir, a Muslim majority state. Here the Fertility rate of Hindus is almost twice that of Muslims. Here again the birth rate was lower 31.4(per thousand) than in U.P (36.5), MP 36.4, Bihar 34.8 and Rajasthan 33.4.

We have to realise that the overall rate of population increase in educationally and socially advanced states like Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka, is overall lower, both for Muslims and Hindus, compared to the rest of the country. Also let us have a look at Urban rural divide. More than on third of the Muslim community is concentrated in the peripheral and decaying areas of urban economic life. Incidence of urban poverty is higher among them by 17%(vis--vis Hindus). The number of Muslims living below poverty line is close to 65%. They are generally living in older areas of modern cities, which are well known for poor sanitation, lack of health facilities and basic amenities. On the top of this the repeated outburst of communal violence against them is 'ghettoising' them with the result that improvement in their lot is becoming more and more difficult.

Overall one observes that there are multiple factors determining the rate of population growth, religion being very low on weightage scale, if at all it counts at all. Socio-economic betterment and education are the foremost factors helping in the control of population growth. Feeling of insecurity and poor socio-economic status counter the efforts to promote family planning, (nee, welfare, which is the term conveying the goals of this exercise more precisely), and these two factors transcend the religious factor by number of times. One has to 'complement' the Gobbelsian methods of Hindu right, which have concocted this offensive slogan, which is far removed from the truth.

And lastly what about the Muslims not taking to family planning? In Islamic countries like Turkey and Indonesia family planning methods are quite popular. In Turkey for example 63% of the population in the reproductive age group uses contraception and in Indonesia the figure is 48%. In India the number of Muslim couples in the child bearing age practising family planning in 1970 was 9%(Hindus 14%) and in 1980, 22.5%(Hindus 36.1%) (Operation Research Group, Baroda 1981). Thus the number of additional Muslims taking to family planning is keeping pace with the number of Hindus doing the same. Like all other social programmes family planning is also linked with socio-economic status, level of general social awareness etc. We will be repeatedly encountering this fact that a large number of Muslims being in the low socio economic strata share these statistics more with other socially disadvantaged sections of society.

Narendra Modi's use of abusive and abrasive language to distort the Demographic facts in a way does not come as a surprise as it has been the major fodder on whch the communalism has been feeding itself. Whatever be the far reaching implications of such statements, it is sure the communal politics will keep resorting to such myths to strengthen itself.

(*)(The writer works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)

 

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