1. Visions of a Demographic Doomsday
1. Visions of a demographic doomsday
1.1. Hindus, the dying race
������ Demograp�hy can change the cultural orien�tation of a country or region by making an original�ly small group numeri�cally domina�nt.� Thus, demographic success was a decisive factor in the Chris�tian take-over of the Roman Em�pir�e: in the first three cen�turies,� Christian numbers grew by 40% per year, due to conver�sion and to the rejec�tion of birth control (whether primitive contr�acep�tion, abortion or in�fantici�de).��� Demographic shifts can lead to violen�ce: in Leban����������������������on, the tilt of the demog�raphic balance in favour of the Muslims, leading to demands of a redistribut�ion of political power shared with the Chris�tians, was one of the causes of the civil war.� Hindus ought to know, for they themselves have also done it once: "After years of im�migra�tion by ethnic Nepa�lis, [Sikkim] lost its sovereig�nty when a Nepali majority chose to be part of India."� Finally, a certain demography can lead to self-an�nihil�ation: many mem�bers of India's Parsi com�munity have resig�ned to the perspective that their community will soon disap�pear due to a suicidal demographic self-forget�ful�n�ess.�� ����
������ In today's India, demography is a hot item, not just because of the economic and ecological burden of overpopulation, but even more because of the differential between Hindus and Muslims with its real or perceived political implicati�ons.� One of the classic statements of this concern is Hindu Sangathan, Saviour of the Dying Race (Delhi 1926), in which Swami Shrad�dhan�anda briefly sketches the problem of demographic decl�ine thre�atening Hindu survival: "while Muhammadans multiply like anything, the numbers of the Hindus are dwindling periodical�l�y".����
1.2. Ominous census figures
������ Swami Shraddhananda quotes from the 1911 Census Report (para 172 ff.) to show the reasons why the Muslim populat�ion is growing faster than the Hindu population, whose per�cent�age of the total population is steadily declinin�g.� The Census Direc�tor had writ�ten: "The number of Muham�mada�ns has risen during the decade [1901-11] by 6.7 per cent as compared with only 5 p.c. in the case of Hindus.� There is a small but continuous accession of converts from Hinduism and other religions, but the main reason for the relatively more rapid growth of the followers of the Prop�het is that they are more prolific."� Follow a num�ber of social� cus�toms which en�courage the Muslim birth rate, e.g. fewer marriage rest�rictions and common remar�riage of wi�dows, and the Muslim insistence that the children of mixed marriages be brought up as Muslims.
������ In 1909, on the basis of demographic trends visible in the census results (1881, 1891, 1901), Colonel U.N. Mukherji had projec�ted the rate of Hindu decline into the future in a stric�tly linear fashion, and cal�cula�ted logically (if somewhat simplistically) that it would take less than 420 years for the Hindu race to disappear complet�ely from the face of In�dia.� This was a "correction" on 1891 Census Commis�sioner O'Donnell's prediction that the Hindus would die out in 620 years.� The series of articles in the Ben�galee of 1909 in which Mukherji propo�sed his analysis was titled: "Hi�ndus, a Dying Ra�ce".�
������ This pessimistic prognosis of the numerical Hindu-Muslim propor�tion defi�nes the problem to which Swami Shrad�dhanan�da (who knew Mukherji personally) tried to offer a soluti�on.� One of Mukher�ji's conclud�ing sen�tences, "They count their gains, we calculate our losses", became the title of a Hindu Mahasabha pamphlet as late as 1979.� If anything, the fever of Hindu demographic pessimism is only rising.
1.3. "Hindus talking nonsense"
������ The Hindu suspicion that Islam is using demography to increase its strength and to wrest territories from Hinduism is a constant theme in Hindu Revivalist writing from at least 1909 till today.� The rhetoric is often shrill and exag�gerated and the case is wrapped in the wrong ar�guments, most notably the claim that "M�uslims have lots of children because they have four wive�s".� A typical examp�le, refer�ring to the of�ficial birth-cont�rol slogan, "we are two, our [children] are two", is the following: "For the Hindu the slogan is: We are two, and we have two.� The slogan for a Moslem is: We are five and we have twen�tyfiv�e."� Sometim��es,� out�side authorities (the BBC, the WHO) are falsely claimed as confir�ming the Hindus' worst fears: "The United Nati�ons census projec�tions have in�dicated that the un�contr�olled birthrate of the Mos�lems of India coupled with huge infiltrations will turn India into a Moslem major�ity coun�try before the year 2000 AD."
������ It is, therefore, no surprise that The Econo�mist ridicules these demogra�phic doomsday scenarios: "Hi�ndu militan�ts are talking� nonsense by predicting that chunks of the country will gain Muslim majorit�ies and then secede�".� There is no doubt that some of the rheto�������ric generat�e�d by this Hindu unrest about the future is plain nonsense, but it doesn't follow that the propor�tional decline of the Hindus is mere fantasy.� The Econo�mist itself ack�nowledges the numerical gains of the Indian Mus�lim community, and explains that Mus�lims are less willing to use birth con�tr�ol, and that the infant mor�tality rate is lower among Muslims because they are more con�centr�ated in the cities where medical care is better. �����
������ For those who dismiss U.N. Mukherjee's reasoning as an obvious and ridicu�lous case of paranoia, it may be useful to verify this prediction for the subsequent 80 years.� Of�ficial census data show that the Hindu per�centage has decli�ned, and the Muslim percentage increas�ed, in every single successive census in British India, free India, Pakistan and Bangl�adesh.� As we are about to demonstrate in some detail, the demo�g�raphic trends con�firm Mukher�ji's general predic�tion of a steady decline, though a quan�titative prognosis is more complex than he en�visaged.
1.4. Demography: the facts
������ Considering the pivotal role of the Hindu Reviva�list per�ception that Hinduism is besieged and that demog�raphy is one of the weap�ons used by Islam against Hin�duism, I believe that a meaningful dis�cussion of Hindut�va ideology is only possible after verif�icat�ion of this fundamental per�ception.� Indeed, on this verifica�tion depends whether we ought to con�sider the Hindutva movem�ent as a bunch of dangerous lunatics spreading lies and paran�oia (a fairly common assumption among India-watche�rs) or merely a group of realistic people who try to face up to real challenges.
������ The following table shows the percentage of Hindus and Muslims in British India in every successive census since 1881:
������ yr. 1881�� 1891�� 1901�� 1911�� 1921�� 1931�� 1941
������ H.� 75.09� 74.24� 72.87� 71.68� 70.73� 70.67� 69.46
� ���� M.� 19.97� 20.41� 21.88� 22.39� 23.23� 23.49� 24.28�
������ And these are the figures for the Indian Republic:���
������ year�� 1951��� 1961��� 1971��� 1981�� 1991 est.
������ H.� 84.98�� 83.51�� 82.72�� 82.29�� 81.8
������ M.���� 9.91�� 10.70�� 11.21�� 11.73�� 12.2
������ These official figures are not altogether ac�curate for 1981 and 1991, for Assam was not counted in 1981 and neither was the state of Jammu & Kashmir in 1991.� Ad�justed on the basis of an estimate for these states, the figures for 1991 become: Hindus 81.54%, Muslims 12.60�%.���� The figure of 12.60% for Muslims in 1991 is confirmed by in�depen�dent secularist observers on the basis of official data and standard procedures for extrapolati�on. � I will use that figure in preference to the Govern�ment�� figure.� This brings the Hindu percentage down to ca. 81.5%.
������ In trun�cated India, the Muslim population has grown 2.69% in forty years (from 9.91% to 12.6% in 1951-91), but Muslim leaders like Imam Bukhari routine�ly claim that the true figure of the Muslim popul�ation in the Indian Repub�lic is about 3% high�er.� There are indeed some probl�ems with the official figur��es�� for the Indi�an Republic, e.g. there is a suspic�ion that many illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are lying low and avoid�ing the census personnel because they are used to a regime which is not so leni�ent with un�sol�ici�ted im�migrants (Banglad�esh pushed back the Muslim Rohin�gya refug�ees from Myanmar in 1992-93).� But for the present� dis�cus�sion, it is probably best to keep these al�leged un�registered mil�lions outside our considerations and stick to verified figures.� Even without this unknown "dark figure" of unregistered Muslim inhabitants, it is only very slightly exag�gerated to say that in the Indian Repub�lic, ever since 1951, "the propor�tion of Mus�lims has been gradually but steadily increa�sing every decade by roughly one percentage point"�.
������ All kinds of local and regional data confirm the faster muslim grow�th rate.� The two provinces with the highest relative population growth bet�ween 1981 and 1991 are Kashmir (28%) and Lakshadweep (27%), both with a Muslim minority though in very divergent economic and political conditions; fol�lowed by Madhya Pradesh (26%) and Uttar Pradesh (25%).� In Uttar Prade�sh, between 1981 and 1991, the Muslim percentage rose from 15.53% to 17.33 %, in Bihar from 14.13% to 14.81%, in West Bengal from 21.51 to 23.61%.� While in Bihar birth control seemed to have a slight effect in a decrease of the decadal increase from 30.03% in 1971-81 to 29.5% (still more than 5% higher than the Hindu figure) in 1981-91, there was a much larger increase in the decadal increase in U.P. from 29.11% to 36.54%, and in West Bengal from 29.55% to 36.89%.
������ How does all this work out for U.N. Mukherji's demogra�phic doomsday pro�gnosis?� Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Congress Party's leading anti-Hin�dutva polemic�ist, predi�cted in 1993 that until at least the mid-21st cen�tury, the proportion of Muslims will remain stable "bar a decimal point up or down from time to time, at 11.2 per cent."� But even the conse�r�vative estimate for 1991 (not yet pub�lis�hed at the time of his writing) already refu�ted his prediction by putting the Muslim popula�tion more than 1% high�er.� In the contest between Mukherji's prediction of a con�tinuous Mus�lim growth and Aiyar's prediction of a stable percentage for the next sixty years, Mukherji has obviously won.��
������ Other secu�lar�ist observers admit that "it is true that the growth rate amon�gst Muslims is higher than amon�gst Hin�dus", and have cal�culat�ed, on the basis of the 1971 and 1981 census figures, that "if both the com�munities con�tinue to grow at the same rate, Mus�lims at the turn of the cen�tury will account for only 13.55% of the count�ry's populat�ion."� That constitut�es��� a refut�ation of the still-recent rumour that Muslims will out�number Hindus by the year 2,000, but also an admission that the Muslim percentage shows a continuous substantial increase.� For the long term, their estimate is: "It will take 316 years for Mus�lims to outnumber Hin�dus".���� Here, the dif�ference with Mukherji is merely one over the exact quan�tity of time needed to do the job.
������ The projection just quoted is a strictly linear extrap�olation of the Hindu-Mus�lim differential in the decade 1971-1981.� But this approach fails to take into ac�count at least two impor�tant� factors which we will now consider more closely: the Muslim incre�ase is not linear, but is itself increa�sing; and there is a large im�migrati�on of Muslims from Pakistan and Banglad�esh, which can only incre�ase.
1.6. The long-term trend
������ Ever since regular census operations were started, the per�centage of Muslims has grown every decade in British India, in�dependent India, Pakis�tan and Banglade�sh.� The only seeming excep�tion is Pakistan bet�ween 1971 and 1981, due to the official d�eclara�tion of Ah�madiyas (ca. 3%) as non‑Muslims in 1974.� We will include the Ahmadiyas in the Muslim category, as they themselves also do.
������ In the subcon�tinent, Muslims were 19.97% in 1881 and 24.28% in 1941 when the last pre-Partition census was held.� According to the last census (1991), the Muslim percentage in the subcontinent was as follows:
������ Bangla Desh: 86.8% of 108,760,000, or ca. 94,40�3,608.���
������ Pakistan: 97.0% of 126,406,000, or ca. 122,61�3,820.�
������ India: 12.6 % of 846,349��,050, or ca. 106,639,�980�.��
������ Total: ���29.92% of 1,081,�515,0�50, or ca. 323,657,480.�
������ The Muslim percentage has not only incre�ased, but the rate of increase itself has increased.� This is very clear when we take a long-term perspective: in the fifty years between 1941 and 1991, their per�cent�age has risen 5.64% (from 24.28% to 29.92%), substan�tially more than the 4.31% gain in the sixty years bet�ween 1881 and 1941.� At this rate, the Muslims in the Subcon�tinent must have passed the 30% mark in the mid-1990s and will pass the miles�tone of becoming more than half the num�ber of Hindus (ca. 32% to ca. 64%) before the census of 2011.�
������ Simi�larly calculating from the available figures for the three coun�tr�ies, the Hindu per�centage had come down to 65.15% in 1991.� To evaluate the trend of the Hindu percentage, we must take into account that the pre-Indepen�dence census always had a tentative category "trib�al" or "animist", variously defined and therefore making odd quantitative jumps (but always between 2.26% and 3.26%), from 2.57% in 1881 to 2.26% in 1941.� After Indepen�dence, this category was included in the Hindu categ�ory.� So, putting everything on the post-In�dependence deno�mi�nator, we include the "animists" in the Hindu percentage to get a total Hindu percentage of 77.35% for 1881, 71.72% for 1941, and 65.15% for 1991.� Here again, we see a long-term ac�celerat�ion of the ob�served trend: a decrease of 5.63% in the sixty years between 1881 and 1941, and a larger decre�ase of 6.57% in the shorter period of fifty years bet�ween 1941 and 1991.
������ So, all the predictions quoted above are far too conservative, for they are based on a linear projection.� In reality, the observed trends are accelerating, so Mus�lims will need far less than 316 years to out�number the Hindus.� According to Muk�herji, the Hindu percentage of ex-British India (including India, Pakistan, Banglad�esh and Burma) should now have declined by about 13%, down to 54% of the total.� This was too pessimistic, he overestimated the rate of Hindu decline, but in the future the increasing rate of Hindu decline will catch up with Mukherji's estimate.
1.6. Muslim testimony
������ A very unexpected prediction which more than con�firms this trend is implicitly given by one of those auth�ors who ridic�ule Hindu fears about the demographic evoluti�on: Rafiq Zakaria claims that to outnumber Hin�dus, "Mu�slims will need no less than 365 years", but in another dis�cus�sion in the same book he complains that according to an all-India govern�men�tal survey in 1984, Muslim children were under�represen�ted among primary school pupils: "the enrolment of Muslim children at the primary school level in the relevant period was 12.39 per cent as agai�nst the child population of 16.81 per cent."� So, Rafiq Zakaria claims that in 1984, Muslim child�r�en in the prim�ary-school age group constitu�ted 16.81% of the total.�
������ This means that ap�proximately by the time this group reac�hes the median position on the age pyramid of their community (i.e. when the number of people younger than them will equal the number older than them), certainly before 2010 (when they will be in their mid-thirties), the native Muslim popul�ation of India, not counting the millions of post-1984 immigrants, will be 16.81% of the total.� That is even faster than all the above (admitte�dly cautious) cal�culati�ons suggest, as if the religi�ous differential in the use of birth control since the 1960s is having a bigger impact than hitherto assumed.�
������ It gets even more dramatic when you look at it this way: in 1984, a generat�ion of Muslims which was about 12% of the population had produ�ced a generation of children, certainly not more than 30 years younger on average, which constitu�ted more than 16%.� This would mean an unpreceden�ted growth rate of more than 4% in less than 30 years, or rather, a growth with over a third of the original per�centage (4 to 12).� For a little thought experiment: if this differential growth rate is kept con�stant, we get 16.81% of Muslims in ca. 2014, over 22% in 2044, near�ly 30% in 2074, 40% in 2104, crossing 50% in ca. 2125 etc., all with�out coun�ting the effect of Muslim immigration.
������ Of course, demographic prediction is a difficult task, which has to factor in many different types of data and influences, so we should not take any amateur predic�tions too seriously, nor those of specialists paid by political institutions with an interest in popularizing this or that impression about demographic trends.� Let us not pin ourselves down on precise predictions but let us not ignore the generally visible trend either.� The one general prediction to which the data cer�tainly compel us, is that the Muslim percentage will be increas�ing at an ac�celerating rate for at least another generation; and also beyond that, unless the present generation of young adult Muslims brings it procreati�on rate down to the average Indian level.