Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, in his Dussehra festival speech on 5 October last has said that our huge population is the source of all disasters and in a roundabout way he blamed Muslim people for the alleged population explosion in our country, while decrying ‘Religion-Based Imbalance’. His observations are in line with a hoary trope RSS and its political front the BJP have long advanced to hold the largest religious minority group in the country—the Muslims—responsible for population growth.
But this claim of the servitors of ruling monopolists like RSS-BJP is based on utter falsehood. Facts show that India has consistently been on the path of decreasing fertility and declining population growth for four decades now. India is now at relatively low fertility stage. The total fertility rate (TFR), defined as the number of children each woman will give birth to if she lived to the end of her child-bearing years and in line with prevailing age-specific fertility rate, has, as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5, come down to 2, which is below the replacement level fertility rate of 2.1 which would entail further downfall in birth rate. Barring four states (Bihar, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand), all Indian states have TFR lower than 2.1. This decline includes, among others, the Muslim community too. Also important is that the desired TFR in India is now at a low of 1.6 indicating that most families want fewer children than they’re having right now. The desired TFR for Muslim community is just 1.8. For the first time, Indian fertility has fallen below replacement level. Lower fertility means the population will peak sooner and at a lower figure. Increase in population in 2021 compared to 2020 was 0.8% whereas that in 2022 compared to 2021 has further reduced to 0.68. In fact, India’s population growth rate slipped from 1.73% in 2001 to 1.04% in 2018, according to World Bank data. The population growth rate in 12 states was less than even 1% in some states. India’s population is predicted to shrink further.
It bears recall that in response to a question about his government’s relief measures for the victims of the anti-minority pogrom in Gujarat in 2002, which claimed over two thousand lives, BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat remarked callously: ‘‘What should I do? Run relief camps for them? Do we want to have baby producing centres? Hum paanch, hamare pachees? (We five, ours 25?)’’ The implication was clear: every Muslim man has four wives and 25 children—a propaganda spread by BJP for the last several decades. In 2017, Sakshi Maharaj, the BJP Member of Parliament from Unnao, UP, said at a gathering in Meerut: ‘‘Those with four wives and 40 children are responsible for the population increase in the country. Hindus are not to blame for the increase in population.’’ His solution was for all Hindu women to ‘‘produce four children in order to protect the religion’’. Addressing a meeting in Jambusar in Bharuch district, Gujarat, in June 2016, Pravin Togadia, another Hindutva zealot exhorted: ‘‘Now, the population of Hindus will rise… say no to conversion and yes to ghar wapsi [reconversion]; say no to love jehad … go home, worship your manhood…have more children in Hindu households.’’ Dattatreya Hosabale, General Secretary, RSS, observed in 2013: ‘‘Small-family norms are posing a big threat to Hindus. So, each family should have three children…. Blind adherence to family planning norms by a community would not do any good to the country. It will cause a serious imbalance in the country.’’ The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, was yet another attempt to portray the Muslim community as being opposed to family planning and producing too many children. Soon after the first wave of COVID-19 subsided last year, a photograph of a large number of Muslim men offering prayers on a street went viral on Twitter. The caption sought to warn, ‘‘They’re the second-largest majority. When they become largest, you won’t find Hindus here. The country will become like Pakistan and Bangladesh. They will implement Sharia in place of [the] Constitution and become an Islamic country in no time.’’ The photograph was ultimately discovered to be from Bangladesh. Thus, there has been a long-standing propaganda that Muslims will outnumber Hindus by 2035 or so and become the majority in India. What an absurdity! Muslims, who constituted 14.2 per cent of the population in the country and with TFR of 1.8 would outnumber Hindus who constituted 79.8 per cent (Census 2011 figures)! It appears that Mohan Bhagwat-Narendra Modi and their fellow-travellers try to assert that Muslims are very prolific and hence they are responsible for India’s population explosion. They try to make one believe that if a Hindu has two kids, a Muslim has ten. But sorry! The case has never been so. The difference was never more than one child. Now it has come down to less than half a child. Similarly, in India, sex ratio is 1,000:922. That means 78 men out of 1000 do not get to marry a woman in our country. So, it is practically impossible for many men to have multiple wives. When there is such a dearth of women in the normal course, how can one expect millions of Muslim men to have multiple wives and produce more children? Secondly, the National Family Health Survey (2019-21) states that the difference between Hindu (1.94 children per woman) and Muslim (2.36 children per woman) fertility is only 0.42 children per woman.
In his speech, Bhagwat also referred to ‘conversions by force’. Hindutva outfits have also long raised the bogey of ‘forced conversions’—particularly Christianity eating into Hindu’s preponderant majority. This claim, too, is not grounded in reality. A Pew research report released in June 2021, notes that it is ‘rare’ for someone in India to switch from one religion to another. ‘‘An overall pattern of stability in the share of religious groups is accompanied by little net change from movement into, or out of, most religious groups. Among Hindus, for instance, any conversion out of the group is matched by conversion into the group,’’ So why this scaremongering about ‘Religion-Based Imbalance’ and India’s Population Growth? Why anything that is deemed fit to provoke fear, hatred and resentment among the majority community is needed to be propagated so extensively by the RSS-BJP? Why have the Hindutva leaders been relentlessly resorting to palpable falsehood?
Because their intention is to misguide the people about the real cause of the acute, growing all-embracing crises which are making life nightmarish for the toiling millions. As a trusted ideologue of crass communal Hindutva doctrine which has full backing of ruling capitalists, the root of all evils, bent on precipitating an artificial divide among the common people along religious lines to thwart surge of any united people’s movement that might accelerate the process of accomplishment of anti-capitalist proletarian revolution, the RSS chief has said nothing new. Holding population growth as the devil to shield capitalism has been a recurrent theme of the BJP and its mentor the RSS, the Sangh Parivar as a whole. Even the Congress and other ruling parties subservient to bourgeois class interest have been pouring the same poison over and over again for decades after decades.
People today are finding themselves in a dismal environment where unemployment, retrenchment, price-rise, lack of proper education and healthcare, spurt in corruption, soaring rate of crimes including bestial crimes against women, etc., have emerged as the predominant feature, apart from a thousand and one catastrophes—all of which make millions upon millions’ life a veritable hell. And the root of all evils is the decadent moribund capitalist system. So, the political servants of the ruthlessly oppressive and utterly corrupt ruling capitalism are fielded to distract people’s attention with non-issues or cooked up issues. Like any other bourgeois government, the BJP-led central and various state governments, as obedient managers of the capitalist class, take care to ensure that the crushing wheels of exploitation run smoothly right over the people so that they are bled white in the aggregate interest of the ruling class, and that people’s anger is not directed against the Ambanis, Adanis, Tatas, Birlas and all other monopolists, and finally against the capitalist system itself. Among other tools, exacerbating communal hatred, mutual distrust, engineering fratricidal feuds and even bloodbaths are preferred by the quarters of vested interest to keep the toiling masses disunited and thereby obstruct the process of development of powerful organized sustained movements against fierce capitalist exploitation rising above all differences centring religion, caste, creed, ethnicity, language and so forth. If different sections of the people could be made insecure, narrow minded, suspicious towards each other and alienated from humanity, that is a very big service to the capitalist class. This population growth theory and the doctored theory of Muslims overtaking Hindus are part of that hideous gameplan.
Imbibing this truth, toiling Indians should, therefore, not be carried away by all this propaganda and concoctions but rise against the same, unitedly and vociferously. Let the oppressed and repressed Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, dalits, tribal people and all other Indian citizens understand that they have only one identity—that is the exploited. This identity will defy all conspiracies to divide them. This identity together with the correct leadership will give our battle the triumphant guidance against exploitative rule and foil the heinous conspiracies of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar to drive a wedge into their fighting unity.