Reviews
Religious Demography Of India


Demonising Demography As 'Social Science'

Nalini Taneja

A DEMONISING demography is crucial to all right racist and communal political theories, the Hindutva theories of the Sangh Parivar being no exception. But a vision of a Muslim majority overwhelming the Hindu population succeeds as an image of a horrific future only in conjunction with a horrific image of the Muslim minority in the first place. Otherwise why should one care whether it is Hindus or Muslims, or people of any other religion for that matter, who constitute the majority in our country? A concern with such fraudulent demography is therefore only one plank, although a major plank of Hindutva offensive in this country.

Like other aspects of its communal propaganda this is not new, and its constant and ruthless repetition in RSS shakhas has made it part of popular ‘common sense’ like much else that is irrational or untrue. But the coming to power of the BJP government has given actual entry to the RSS shakha as an ideological factor in social science research, and a mainstream status and legitimacy to RSS propaganda through identification with and takeover of established and reputable autonomous academic institutions in the country. There is no aspect of communal propaganda that has today not found legitimacy through this entry into higher institutions of learning.

FRAUDULENT STUDY

The latest is a book released by home minister L K Advani, called the Religious Demography of India, for which he has also written the Foreword. It is a book that can be faulted on many points, including factual data and its strong communal prejudice. It argues that “Indian Religionists” (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists) may become a minority in the Indian Union in fifty years in relation to “Other Religionists” (Muslims and Christians).

What is crucial for us is that this book is a study funded by the government run Indian Council for Social Science Research and carried out by a Chennai based social science institute, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and that in its foreword, a person who holds an important position in the government, is not merely endorsing a study which is fraudulent and explicit in its exclusion of certain minorities as foreigners, but as home minister is actually promoting the idea of ethnic cleansing through equating demographic changes with national security and ‘integrity of our borders’.

The authors, A P Joshi, M D Srinivas and J K Bajaj, none of them trained demographers, claim that “physicists (like them presumably!) can get into anything”, and that their conclusions are based on Census data from 1901 to 1991. The book itself, classifies the people of India as being either "Indian Religionists" (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and tribal) or Non-IR (Muslim and Christian), with clear implications of Indian and foreign, and goes on to conclude that “a decline of 11 percentage points in the share of the majority community in a geographical and civilisational region like India”.

FALSE ASSUMPTION

It is based on an assumption that prior to the coming of the Muslims and Christians this country consisted of a homogenous Hindu population. It is an assumption that has been contradicted by all major studies on historical demography as well as the major Anthropological Survey of India project based on a massive survey lasting over a decade. It is an assumption contradicted by the fact that Christianity is as old in India as it is in Europe, and that the first Christians in Kerala preceded the emergence of a ‘Hindu’ community, and that Arabs came to India much earlier than many whom this study today classifies as Hindus and therefore “Indian Religionists” as opposed to those it classifies as “Other Religionists”, implying foreigners.

As Verghese has pointed out in a review the thesis that unfolds in this book is that IRs enjoy overwhelming dominance in northwestern, central, western and southern India (less Kerala). But in "the heartland and eastern regions" comprising UP, Bihar, and Assam, IRs are "under great pressure", especially in several border districts. In the border regions of J&K, the Northeast, Goa, Kerala, Lakshadweep and Nicobar the IRs constitute a third or less of the population or are in a minority. The blurb on the dust jacket of Religious Demography of India calls on India to start afresh and "get into the task of nation building with an abiding passion".

The conclusion’ on the basis of Census data have been arrived at through including the populations of the entire South Asian region for making their projections, as demographer, P M Kulkarni points out. It can only mean that presence of Muslims anywhere in the world, particularly just outside its borders, is anathema to such Hindutvavadis.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL APPROACH

It is such ‘concerns’ no doubt that prompt Advani to link demographic change with integrity of borders and national security, and to so enthusistically recommend this book. An Indian Express report (September 23, 2003) quotes from Advani’s Foreword: “… the growth and decline of population play a crucial role in the rise and fall of nations…That is why active and alert societies…keep a keen eye on the changing demographic trends within themselves…”And again: “Rigorous and continuous observations and analyses of the changing demography of different religious groups is…of importance in maintaining the integrity of our borders.”

In maintaining thus, Advani has clearly advanced views that are unconstitutional in that they privilege citizens of some religions over others, and are contrary to the principles of equal rights. That a home minister of this country can write such things in print is a sign of what the Sangh Parivar thinks it can get away with in this country, and what in fact it does get away with. Such studies go far beyond the “hum paanch, hamare pachchees” (we five and our twentyfive), signifying that Muslims want to increase their numbers by marrying four wives who then have twentyfive children. This crude propaganda of course does the rounds in shakhas and still remains part of popular common sense despite all data to the contrary, but in recent times the Sangh Parivar has felt the need to butress such propaganda by sponsored ‘academic’ activity, to show that even ‘science’ proves its theories.

The coming to power of the BJP government has given actual entry to the RSS shakha as an ideological factor in social science research. There is today a smooth passage from the shakha culture and politics through the shishu mandirs and vidya bharti schools into ‘higher research’. The vidya bharti schools and shishu mandirs teach and translate into formal learning the unadulterated RSS view of history and society perfected in the shakhas. This entire package has now penetrated into higher research through RSS affiliated ‘scholars’ in India and abroad, and is struggling to assume mainstream status through identification with and takeover of established and reputable autonomous academic institutions in the country. The libaral intelligentsia in this country needs to shed its complacency that such theories are to be laughed at—they could be if they were not so dangerous—and that they may hold sway in a world unconnected with them but cannot impinge on institutions they consider their own preserves.