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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Politics in demographics

By Ram Puniyani

The current social common sense rides on many a misconceptions. These myths form the base of 'Hate other' ideology and has started creating the emotional and physical walls amongst the communities in big measure in recent years. One of these myths which makes merry rounds, with lots of spices added to it is that Muslims marry four number of times and produce twenty children. This is also expressed as the sigh of a poor Hindu male, Ham Do Hamare Do- Wo Panch Unke pachis (We two, husband and a wife, our two children, they five, one husband-four wives and have twenty children). This might have been one of the most powerful constructs of the myth making machinery installed by the RSS. In the prevailing scenario the Census Commission's observation that the rate of rise of Hindu population has declined from 25.1% in the decades of 81 to 91 to 20.3% during 91-2001 and the rate of Muslim growth has gone up from 34.5% during 81-91% to 36% during 91-2001, came as the Gods gift to the myth manufacturing machinery.

Without wasting a minute various functionaries of this machine started pouring their venom out in the open. Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP President, stated that it is a matter of deep concern for the unity and integrity of the nation, Mr. Jaitly went on to demand a National debate on the population growth as per religions, while Mr. Ram Madhav the spokesperson of RSS asserted that this has been the RSS fear all through and the first report on religion by census commission has confirmed the same. The adoption of two child norm by Hindu middle class is the culprit of this demographic danger looming over the country. Not to be left behind Shiv Sena branch of Dharampur in Bijnor, UP, went on to declare Jagrook (Aware person) award to few Hindu women who have more than five children. The idea simply put is that these are the persons who are aware to the Hindu cause, and by producing more Hindu children they are trying to offset the evil designs of Muslims in converting this Hindu Rashtra into an Islamic state. VHP votaries like Chinubhai Patel of Gujarat saw it as the conspiracy of Muslims.

Right next day a National newspaper came out with the news that Census commission has goofed and goofed badly. In the first ever Report on religions, it forgot that the previous data, that of 1991 did not have Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir in the data. So the comparison and the supposed rate of rise sounded bigger. In real fact there is a decline in the Muslim rate of growth to 29.3 i. e. a decline of 3.7%. The total population of Muslims remains 13.4% while the Hindu population is 80.5%.

At the time of Partition the Muslim population was 11.6%. Even in the current data there are some holes. To begin with many an Adiviasis have now got themselves registered in the category, 'other religions', rather than the previous Hindu which was automatically put in front of their names. This time Jains have also been put as a separate category so this decline in the rate of rise of Hindu population is not as big as it appears. These intricasies of the data analysis were not highlighted by the National Census Commission, and it changes the interpretation in a very serious manner. Was this lopsided presentation deliberate? Is it that the people in charge cannot handle this simple analysis?

It is also understood that this data was ready before the elections but BJP preferred not to publish it that time, as at that time it was operating in the Shinning India mode and this might have disturbed their apple cart. It is also understood that like the communalization of other bodies, census commission was also the victim of 'trishul diksha' and there were motives in the analysis of the data. Its very difficult to believe that the learned demographers could not decipher such simple facts, which make such a serious differnce in the interpretation of results.

As such one is also amazed by the correaltion of the population and religion. The rise of population is more an index of poverty and lack of education rather than the teachings of any religion. And no religious community is uniform all over India. The population growth rate amongst Kerala Muslims is very low comapred to Muslims in other parts of the country. As Muslims have been a discrimintated against lot their overall rate of population growth is higher. As awareness is spreading it is coming down uniformly. On the top of this by what strech of imagination can a Muslim male marry four number of times when as per the sex ration there are just 936 Muslim women for every 1000 Muslim men. But it has come to stick on their forehead that they marry four number of times.

As such last two decades in particular have seen an increaesed intimidation and ghettoisation of Muslim community due to the communal violence the worst of which was seen first in Mumbai riots in 1992-93 and in Gujarat in 2002. In such an adverse situation the social reforms and progress take a back seat. The need is to provide an atmosphere where the community can live the social and poltical life with security and dignity. Despite such an adverse situation a decline in the rate of rise of population does suggest the work of social workers who are conciously focussing their efforts for education and progress in the community. This goof of Census Commission has given a big handle to the 'Hate mongers' to intensify their efforts to demonise Muslims for their political purposes. The religion based census data can serve different types of purposes. If this opens our eyes to the plight of this community, poverty, illiteracy and insecurity and if we aim to redress it as a nation , the data will be worth its while. One hopes that the Government takes suitable remedial efforts to undo the damage done by this goof of census commission and to recognise that population control cannot be done without social progress and spread of literacy. (

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