Few knew Malati and Sushanta Nath beyond remote Srikona in southern Assam’s Cachar district, but almost overnight they have become the poster couple of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s campaign asking Hindus to produce more babies to counter what the group calls the “demographic invasion” by Muslims in India.
Hours before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) issued a show-cause notice to its Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj on Monday for advising every Hindu woman to bear at least four children, the VHP felicitated the Naths for producing twice as many.
According to official data, about 80% of India’s population is Hindu and Muslims make up less than 14%. But hardline Hindu groups say the higher birth rate in the Muslim community will lead to the minority becoming a majority in the country of close to 1.3 billion people.
VHP leaders also hailed the Naths as patriotic at a public function in Silchar town, 343 kilometres south of Guwahati.
“People like Malati and Sushanta Nath are ideal soldiers of this country, ensuring more warriors for our armed forces in the fight against enemies of the motherland,” VHP leader Dinesh Upadhyay said.
Swami Nirmayananda of Bharat Sevashram, a Hindu charitable organisation, chose to be more blatant.
“Children are the gifts of God, and Hindus have to treasure them to be numerically stronger. If not, they will be outnumbered in 20 years.”
Assam has more than 30% Muslims – the 2011 census has not yielded religion-wise population data yet – and they are a majority or almost equal in eight of the state’s 27 districts. They are a majority in two of southern Assam’s three districts as well.?
But Hindus were not the first in the northeast to wake up to this demographic threat and urge women to produce more children. A tribal council in Meghalaya, where Christians and adherents of indigenous faiths are on almost equal footing, had in 2006 launched a reward scheme for locals with large families.
The scheme entailed Rs 16,000 for women with 17-20 children.
In February last year, the hill state’s Congress minister, Prestone Tynsong, associated large families with the UPA’s food security scheme. He said people were free to produce more children as the scheme would ensure enough affordable rice “to feed your young ones”.