Telling a lie with statistics by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (September 04, 2015)

In Bihar, the BJP-RSS propaganda machinery has got a windfall in the form of religion-wise census. The foot soldiers of the Sangh are warning Hindus that the Hindu population growth has been slower than that of Muslims, and only a BJP government can reverse the trend.

“Appeasers of Muslims” like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar cannot check the trend which, if allowed to continue, will “soon” make the Muslims a majority and Hindus, at present just a little below 80 percent, a cringing, disempowered minority.

The Sangh knows that this propaganda, based on a recently released census report, is based on a faulty and misleading reading of the report, which many Muslims surmise to have been released before Bihar elections for its potential electoral use by BJP.

That Muslims cannot outnumber Hindus even in distant future was shown by Mani Shankar Aiyar more than a decade ago. He said that even if Muslims continued to grow at the rate they were growing in, say 2000 and Hindu stopped growing completely, it will take 250 years for Muslims get even with Hindus.

That Muslims will not continue at the rate of their growth in 2000 is quite clear today as their growth rate has declined sharply over the last two decades. That Hindus have not stopped growing is also evident from their largest share in growth numbers in absolute terms. There has been a sharper decline in the ratio of Muslims than expected. Their growth is said to come down to the national average within the next 20 years.

The sheer numbers, in an undifferentiated reckoning, can be highly misleading in considerations of demographic trends. However, it must be conceded that RSS-BJP are interested in a more generalised reckoning of the census rather than a nuanced study. All it is interested in is an opportunity to provoke Hindus, particularly at the time of Bihar elections, against Muslims.

For instance, the Sangh will not think it fit to tell its constituency that the Kerala Muslim population growth is going at a lower rate than UP Hindu population growth. Nobody is saying what it symbolises and where would this trend lead.

Also, the Sangh is not interested in knowing that demographic laws are as good as laws of physics and biology. It is an established fact that socio-economic growth has an inverse relationship with population growth, that is, the more prosperous couples are, the fewer children they will have. Muslims being forced to lag behind even SCs and STs, their population is bound to grow faster.

The sharp decline in Muslim population has come largely because of their own conscious effort to improve their lot. As per the findings of development economist Abusaleh Sharif, Muslims have the highest ratio of self-employment. A sizeable credit for whatever economic self-sufficiency they have goes to their own efforts. Lower population growth is partly attributed to economic wellbeing, the sharp fall in Muslim growth ratio can be attributed, thus, to their own efforts largely.

The state could have helped this trend by providing better educational and job opportunities to them, by curbing organised violence against them and by making banking and finance available to them to improve their economic wellbeing, which is a requirement for lowering population growth. The government did no such thing.

There are other reasons which facilitate marginally higher population growth among Muslims. There is a better sex ratio among them, which means their girl children are not destroyed in the womb. Fewer of their women are anaemic compared to others, which means they are not denied adequate food, other necessities and comforts. In effect, they are more fertile. Also, the Muslim mother’s age is younger, which is another factor favouring fertility.

Despite all that the Muslim population growth is declining fast and may level off in our lifetime, getting equal to or less than the national average. Muslims also love to pay for their children’s education in private schools, even though they have less money. There is also a greater use of contraceptives among them. All that put together is sure to bring down their population in a couple of decades to the national average, thus denying the Sangh a nice propaganda masala for ever.

Let us hope that the state and society at large will do their part to facilitate it. Denial of educational, job and financial facilities any longer would not be of help.

 

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