Uttar Pradesh

Hiding facts behind rhetoric

Print edition : October 02, 2015

At a camp for the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots, in Malakpura village in Shamli district. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Sakshi Maharaj, BJP MP from Unnao. He has urged Hindu women to give birth to four children each to counter the "threat" from a growing Muslim population. Photo: ANINDITO MUKHERJEE/REUTERS

The vicious propaganda against Muslims is not supported by Census data relating to the State.

EARLY this year, Sakshi Maharaj, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Member of Parliament from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, said at a gathering of sants in Meerut that Hindu women should produce at least four children to counter the growing Muslim population. “I... want to request women to give birth to at least four children. Give one to sadhus and ascetics. The media say there are ceasefire violations happening, so send another to the border,” Maharaj said.

In a similar vein, Yogi Adityanath, another saffron-clad BJP MP from Gorakhpur, claimed at a gathering: “The comparatively high fertility rate among Muslims will cause a dangerous demographic imbalance.” He raised the same concern at another forum and asked Hindu parents to teach their daughters about the dangers of the so-called “love jehad”. He also urged all Hindu men to marry 100 Muslim women.

Both the legislators from Uttar Pradesh have been making controversial statements ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre. The fear of Muslims overtaking the Hindu population sometime in the future seems to troubling both of them. This has been the thrust of the Sangh Parivar’s campaign from the pre-Independence period. With the BJP in power at the Centre, these irrational campaigns have only grown stronger.

Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in India, has been among the country’s most communally sensitive regions in recent times. For the last three years, it has been the biggest laboratory for the Sangh Parivar for experiments in communal polarisation. Campaigns to propagate empirically untested theories such as “love jehad” and “an exploding Muslim population” have lent a severe blow to Hindu-Muslim harmony in the State. The Sangh Parivar’s attempts to establish Gau Raksha Abhiyans (cow protection campaigns) in every district has also deepened communal anxieties. All this has worked out in favour of the BJP in terms of electoral success. In the 2014 parliamentary elections, it won an unprecedented 71 seats out of 80.

The 2011 Census data on religious composition, which show the proportion of the Hindu population coming down a bit, have stoked further communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh. “Sangh Parivar workers have been visiting Hindu colonies of western Uttar Pradesh to say that Muslims are growing in number and they must prevent this for the sake of a secure future,” Gulshad, a political activist in western Uttar Pradesh, told Frontline.

It is therefore important to examine the Census figures of Uttar Pradesh. According to the latest data, Hindus constitute 79.73 per cent of the State’s population, down from 80.6 per cent in 2001. Muslims account for about 19.26 per cent, up from 18.4 per cent in 2001. In terms of proportion in the total population of the State, the Muslim population has increased. The Sangh Parivar uses this to buttress its argument, but it is hard to see the Muslim minority in Uttar Pradesh overtaking the Hindu population.

In absolute numbers, the Hindu population in the State has increased by approximately 2.5 crore, whereas the Muslim population has risen by almost 77.4 lakh. While the countrywide data clearly show that the growth rates among all religious communities over the last three decades have declined, with the Muslim growth rate showing the sharpest decline, figures from Uttar Pradesh best expose the Sangh Parivar’s bluff.

In a State where the Sangh Parivar’s scaremongering is the highest, the Muslim growth rate is 20.1 per cent, almost four percentage points lower than the national average of 24.6 per cent. In contrast, the Hindu population growth rate has shown negligible decline in the State—15.9 per cent in comparison to 16.8 nationally.

“The Census data suggest that there is no ‘Hindu fertility’ or ‘Muslim fertility’ or ‘Christian fertility’ as such. The religious fertility differentials seen in India at present are on account of the differences in the stages of transition that these communities are at, and not the absence of transition in any community. There is nothing in a religion or approach to life that leads a community to have larger families; rather, one should look at their economic circumstances, poverty, marginalisation, etc.,” writes Poonam Muttreja of the New Delhi-based Population Foundation of India in her analysis of the Census data.

In fact, Muttreja says: “The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is falling faster in Muslims than in Hindus. In the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 1 (1992-93), fertility numbers for Muslims and Hindus were 4.4 and 3.3, a gap of one per cent. In NFHS 2 (1998-99), the numbers for Muslims and Hindus fell to 3.59 and 2.78, and the gap, therefore, to 0.8. And in NFHS 3 (2005-06), the numbers were 3.1 and 2.7; the gap 0.4.”

Similarly, various studies have pointed out that the sex ratio among Uttar Pradesh Muslims is higher than among Hindus. According to the last study by the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2007, Muslims had a sex ratio of 855 females per 1,000 males in contrast to 817 in all the minority concentrated districts (MCDs) of Uttar Pradesh. It must be said that MCDs were identified as districts that had a Muslim population accounting for more than 25 per cent of the population. Even in the new Census figures, the national sex ratio among Muslims is better than among Hindus.

Clearly, the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj either have not looked at such data or are deliberately sullying Muslims through their dubious theories.

Historically, Uttar Pradesh had the largest family sizes in India across all religions. According to the Census data, an average of 6.26 members constitute one family there. Sociologists say that the large family sizes arise from the need for more earning members in poor families and reflect poverty. Uttar Pradesh scores very high in terms of poverty figures, with Muslims remaining at the bottom of the heap for decades. For instance, the urban poverty rates among Muslims vis-a-vis overall poverty rates is a monstrous 49.5 per cent in the State, according to the Suresh Tendulkar committee on the poverty line constituted in 2009.

The Baseline Survey of Minority Concentration Districts, conducted by the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2007 and headed by D. Narsimha Reddy, reported that Uttar Pradesh was among the worst States for Muslims in terms of literacy rates, landlessness and poverty when compared with the Hindus of the State.

The vicious campaigns against Muslims in this backdrop seem like convenient rhetoric to divert attention from more important issues. The Census data not just debunk the myths propagated by the Sangh Parivar but also expose its slander. The 71 MPs from Uttar Pradesh that the party has in Parliament have hardly expressed concern about the poor socio-economic indicators for both Hindus and Muslims, notwithstanding the loud development talk of the government.

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