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Hindus, Muslims: Why saffron groups shouldn't colour the numbers

Pew Research Centre's report give radical Hindu organisations an opportunity to rake up their pet theme: 'Hindus must reproduce more'.

ht view Updated: Apr 04, 2015 11:49 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times
Muslim population,Hindu population,Pew world religions report

A new study released by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre, a data research agency that informs the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world, said India would overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population by 2050.

Unsurprisingly, the report has been lapped up by saffron organisations, the VHP in particular, which have raked up their pet theme: The Hindus-must-reproduce-more issue.

Reacting to the report--I am quite certain here that the VHP leaders have read only the headline points of the "The Future of World Religions Report" and not even its executive summary - the organisation's international secretary general Champat Rai told a national newspaper that if Hindus continued to restrict themselves to having one child per family, "Muslims would eventually take over the country". Rai also indicated that Hindu parents have "no right to decide the number of children" they must have as he vowed to continue the controversial and discredited "ghar wapsi" programme.

Groups like the VHP have a proclivity for cherry picking sections of such reports and books to further their gains. It makes for good public consumption and bolsters their dodgy activities but harms social and political peace of the country.

Therefore, it is important to read the other findings of the Pew report, which is based on birth and death rates, immigration patterns and rates of religious conversions, among other information found in censuses, demographic surveys and additional reports that asked people to identify what faith they follow, as well.

Here is a key part of the report that the VHP will hide from Hindus because it can take the wind out of the sails of the saffron group's agenda: "India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia." (Italics mine)

Second, the growth of the Islamic population is part of a worldwide trend and is not India-specific. The report says that over the next four decades, Islam is expected to grow faster than any other major religion worldwide with the Muslim population nearly matching Christians in both number and share of the global population.

The reason why the Muslim population will grow is also clear: As a group, Muslims are younger and have more children than members of other faiths, driving their global growth, the same way Indians as a whole have a demographic advantage over say the West and Japan.

In the same interview I mentioned above, Rai said: "Our (the VHP's) existence itself is incumbent upon ghar wapsi. That's why VHP was born."

So, should the VHP's existential problem become ours as well?

And here's some unsolicited advice for Rai and his ilk: Read the report in full and do remember that Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently strongly asserted his government's commitment to ensure equal respect to all religions in India. Such a promise may not be to the VHP's liking but then going against it would be going against what the PM stands for, at least publicly.

(The views expressed are personal. The author tweets as @kumkumdasgupta.)

First Published: Apr 04, 2015 11:19 IST