JOSEPH GOEBBELS, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, memorably said: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will believe it yourself. This is remembered by hearing what many people, not just the Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters, are saying about how India’s Muslim population is growing at such a rapid rate that Muslims will very soon outnumber them. the Hindus. This false narrative is reinforced by the fact that a Muslim can legally have up to four wives. So it stands to reason, by twisted logic, that many more Muslim babies are born than Hindu babies. No one bother to ask how many Muslims actually have more than one wife. In reality, very little. Personally, I don’t know of any. Do you?
Either way, the myth of Muslims multiplying much more than Hindus persists, fueling community prejudices. It is sad that Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has joined the choir. Recently, while delivering Vijay Dashmi’s annual speech in Nagpur, he said there was a need for a “population policy” based on “demographic changes and the imbalance” of the Indian population. What he meant by “imbalance” was that the Hindu population was growing at a slower rate than that of the Muslims. He also called for a policy to curb population growth that would apply to all communities.
There can be no quarrel over the need to slow down the increase in membership, and that everyone should participate in the effort. Even though the country’s population growth rate has indeed declined over the past three decades, it is still unsustainable. It has not achieved the “zero growth rate” or the desirable fertility replacement level, as it is in China. The United Nations estimates that between 2020 and 2050 there will be 27.3 million more Indians on the planet, and that by 2027 – in just six years – we will overtake the Chinese population. Clearly, the Indian government, along with civil society, must do everything possible to slow the rate of population growth. Otherwise, we are facing a demographic catastrophe, not a demographic dividend.
The truth is that after Sanjay Gandhi’s awkward and coercive measures to enforce the family planning program during his mother’s emergency regime (which was part of the reason why Congress lost the general election of 1977), all ruling political parties were afraid to pursue an effective family planning program. The short-sighted feminist lobby must also share some of the blame. He has consistently opposed the implementation of WHO-approved contraceptive methods like injectables for women, saying men should also help with family planning by undergoing vasectomies. This may be true, but it is unrealistic in India, which is still a very patriarchal society. Therefore, the most common contraceptive method remains female sterilization, which is irreversible, while ideally there should be a generalization of reversible methods, including IUDs (intrauterine devices), injectables, the pill and the pill. use of condoms. This is the model followed by countries that have been successful in their family planning campaigns, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
On the issue of Muslims outnumbering Hindus in the near future, former chief electoral commissioner SY Quraishi, in his authoritative book “The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning and Politics in India”, exposes the promoted Goebbelsian lies by people like Bhagwat, and who are unfortunately also believed by a large number of non-Muslims. Certainly, the growth rate of Indian Muslim population is slightly higher than that of Hindus. But the gap between the growth rate of the two communities is narrowing day by day. There is one predominant reason for this: education. Overall, the literacy rate of Muslims in India is lower than that of Hindus. The proof of the crucial role of education in the population debate is to compare a highly literate state like Kerala with low literate states like Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. Muslims in Kerala have a much lower rate of population growth than Hindus in UP or Bihar. As Muslims become more educated and their health care improves, they will have smaller families. It’s that simple – except people with community biases refuse to believe the connection.
Let me close by highlighting the lack of leadership provided by prominent Muslims to their community on this vital issue. They should take a look around them, in the more progressive Islamic countries. In Tunisia, polygamy is prohibited by law. In Morocco, it is so difficult for a Muslim to have more than one wife, that indeed very few do. In Indonesia, proactive mullahs have been preaching the benefits of family planning in mosques for decades. In Iran, after the overthrow of the Shah, fundamentalist Islamic rulers tried a natalist policy. They quickly understood their madness. Today Iran has one of the most effective family planning programs in the world. Same in Bangladesh. These Islamic countries have actually been more successful in curbing their population growth rates than India. Not just that. Another major advantage is that women in these countries play a larger role in public life than Muslim women in India. Better education goes hand in hand with greater participation of women in the management of their country.
Education empowers women. Azim Premji, a Muslim, is one of the few enlightened Indian entrepreneurs who understood the importance of education and its link to economic progress. He donates hundreds of crores to an educational foundation he created. The leader of the progressive and wealthy Bohra community, the Syedna, is expected to do the same, as are other Indian business houses.
In a previous column, I criticized two prominent members of the powerful All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) for their public support for the anti-women Taliban in power in Afghanistan. I had asked if any action had been taken against them. I got no response. I have another follow-up question: how many women do you have on your board of directors?
– The writer is a seasoned journalist