Religious Demography Of India

Review in The Hindu Renaissance, Coimbatore
Vijayadashmi Yugabda 5105, p.56-58

Democracy as a Tool
to Subvert Demography

If the number of articles and books that have appeared in recent times, analysing the impact of demography on nations and economies, are any indication, then demography is surely tickling like a time-bomb in the minds of many concerned sociologists. The Economist published a detailed story on the remarkable demographic difference between America and Europe titled, “A tale two bellies” (August 24, 2002). Reviewing the book Demography and Religion in India by Sriya Iyer, Dr. Nandita Krishna wrote in the New Indian Express (18.05.03):

  • Any discussion of demography in India has invariably turned towards three determinants: education, economic development and religion. The higher fertility and growth rates of the Muslims, when compared with the declining fertility and growth rates of the Hindus, have raised the potential threat of Muslims outnumbering Hindus…

  • However, the debate is not new to us. Consider this revealing excerpt from an interview Swami Vivekananda gave to the Prabuddha Bharata in 1899:

    • “Certainly,” said the Swami, “they can and ought to be taken.” He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. “Besides,” he said, “we shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said – I think on the authority of Ferishta, the oldest Muslim historian – to have been six hundred million of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more…”

    More than a hundred years later, these prophetic words are ringing in the ears of many anxious Hindus today, who have begun to take note of the demographic challenge from proselytising religions. Moreover, it has often been observed that rise in the population of members of proselytising religions, gives rise to fissiparous tendencies, communal disturbances and separatist movement – a proof of the fact that these expansive religions have a clearly laid political agenda.

    Jammu and Kashmir, Arunchal Pradesh, Nagaland, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands – what do all these have in common, one may ask. A steady fall in the number of ‘Indian Religionists’ and an equally steady (and in some cases spectacular) rise in the numbers of Muslims and Christians. As steady and spectacular is the decline in the population of the Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    The Centre for Policy Studies has published the results of a painstaking research and compilation undertaken by A. P. Joshi, M. D. Srinivas and J. K. Bajaj. This detailed study analyses the demographic changes in the subcontinent between 1881-1991 based mainly on the decennial censuses and also making use of the United Nations estimates while projecting the trends into the future. The book includes 38 detailed tables, 105 text tables, 29 maps and many references.

    “What is new in these results, many of us already knew these trends?”, some would probably say, without thinking for a moment about the grave implications of the changing demography of these states. “But we are only 3% of the population and we render much social service in the field of education and health care”, Christian leaders will chip in.

    Indeed, the book already appears to have created a scare among the Christian propagandists, going by the reaction one such vocal proponent, John Dayal, national secretary of the “All India Catholic Union”. In a critical review titled, “Lies, Half Truths and Statistics”, John Dayal takes a cheap dig that the book has been typeset at “Ram’s Creative Chambers”. One can understand their desperate situation; refuting a scientific study such as this takes more than a clergyman’s skill at preaching the good news.

    The book has had a relatively more ‘sober’ impact on other quarters; in a review in India Today (12.05.03), Swapna Dasgupta says, “The data is startling. In fact, so startling that there is a chance this book, with its rich district-level data, will become a ready reckoner for the Hindu backlash against secularism.”

    A grasp of some essential concepts underlying India’s nationhood is necessary to comprehend this study: the distinction between “Indian Religionists” and others for instance. Especially when Sri L. K. Advani, having written a thoughtful foreword, expresses his reservations while releasing the book, regarding this definition. He expressed his doubts whether Islam and Christianity could be considered as foreign religions.

    The authors have included Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Jews and Parsis under the broad term, “Indian Religionists”. The idea seems to be to classify together followers of India-born religions, viz. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. To this list are added followers of non-proselytising faiths such as Judaism and also tribal traditions. For a discerning eye the distinction is sharp enough.

    The two basic determinants of Indian demography, the authors contend, are the civilisational and cultural homogeneity of the Indian people and their share in the population of the world. Defining sanatana dharma as the building factor behind this cultural homogeneity and introducing Islam and Christianity as the sources of heterogeneity, they explain:

    • The Indian subcontinent enjoys remarkable isolation from the rest of the world. The land frontier in the north is blocked by the high and wide wall of the Himalaya, which is impassable except at a few points in the northwest; the long seacoasts in the south are far away from any other major lands and have few natural harbours. The land enclosed within these impregnable frontiers is one of the richest in the world. It is therefore not surprising that Indians, living securely within their vast and fertile lands for millennia, without fear of external aggression or internal scarcity, developed into a homogenous civilisational area. This homogeneity was anchored in sanatana dharma. Indians, living in their splendid and rich isolation, were at peace with themselves, with nature and the world; the sanatana dharma enshrines, at its heart, a sense of deep respect for all aspects of creation.…

      Unlike all those who came to India before them, the Islamic rulers, consciously and perhaps conscientiously, resisted acculturation into the timeless civilisational and religious milieu of India. This thus became the first source of heterogeneity in India, dividing the Indian population mainly into two distinct religious communities, Hindus and Muslims, as reflected in the 1881 census cited above. In time, this demographic heterogeneity led to the Partition of the country into Indian Union and two separate Islamic enclaves.

    Throughout [in this book], “India” is used to refer to undivided India including Pakistan and Bangladesh. Data has also been compiled individually for Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Indian Union apart from the cumulative figures and analysis for “India”.

    The religious composition of the Indian Union has been classified into three distinct zones (see map): Region I, “Where Indian Religionists Dominate”, comprising almost all of the north-western, western, central and southern states, viz. Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

    Even in these states, there is a considerable Muslim presence (12%) in every district [of a belt running through the regions that were ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad in the period before Independence]: Aurangabad district (Maharashtra) and Hyderbad (Andhra Pradesh) being exceptional cases of high Muslim presence in this belt.

    Region II: “Where Indian Religionists are under Pressure” – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. Muslim presence is very high in this belt, Indian Religionists being a minority in many areas. Christian dominance is limited to two pockets in Ranchi-Raigarh-Sundargarh districts and the North Cachar Hills district of Assam.

    Region III: “Where Indian Religionist are a Minority” – these are predominantly the border areas including Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Nicobar Islands and the northeastern states.

    Calling the demographic alteration in the northeastern states as “the most dramatic story of the twentieth century”, the study observes that entire populations in these states have been converted in quick spurts. Ironically, the most significant spurt took place in the Independence decade of 1941-1951.

    Interestingly, the census data from Pakistan show that during the pre-Partition period, the population of Indian Religionists was rising steadily from 15.9 percent in 1901 to 19.7 percent in 1941. However, Partition brought this trend to an abrupt end; thanks to the large-scale genocide that ensued.

    Unlike Pakistan, our “friendly neighbour”, Bangladesh, shows a more consistent downward graph of Indian Religionists during the whole of the twentieth century! If one is to also take into account the recent and ongoing cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus, this trend is very well confirmed and will continue to a stage where the presence of Indian Religionists will be reduced to rubble.

    Through the work confines itself to statistics, an in-depth analysis of the socio-political and religious factors that cause such demographic alterations would form a fitting sequel. Commenting on one such aspect that gives rise to a difference in the birth rate among Hindu and Muslim women, Dr. Nandita Krishna writes:

    • … the surprising revelation is that a Hindu woman spends, on an average, 53 weeks at her parents home in connection with post-childbirth ‘purity and pollution’, which would undoubtedly cut down her fertility. On the other hand, Muslim women spend only 28 weeks. Further, Hinduism has no opinion for or against birth control and abortion, whereas several schools of Islam aver that birth control may be permitted only in restricted situations.

    Moreover, there is the much touted question of “religious freedom”. Religious freedom is meant only for destroying the non-Abrahamic religions; human rights are only for the Islamic terrorists and the missionaries. Thus, in democracies like India, the law and its loopholes are exploited to increase the numbers of the momins and the believers. Whereas, in military regimes like Pakistan or in pseudo-democracies like Bangladesh, the law is meant to keep the growth of Indian Religionists in check. Democracy, and the later roguish addition, secularism, have become tools to subvert the demography of Indian Religionists. The aim of this demographic siege is very clear, as the statistics show – to reduce the Indian Religionists into a minority:

    • A decline of 11 percentage points in the share of the majority community in a compact geographical and civilisational region like India is an extraordinary occurrence to happen in the coursed of just about a century. At the peak of Mughal rule at the time of Akbar, after nearly four hundred years of Islamic domination, the proportion of Muslims in India was said to have reached no more than one-sixth of the population. As we shall see below, if the trend of decline continues, then the population of Indian Religionists in India is likely to fall below 50 percent early in the latter half of the twenty-first century.

    One can only hope that the inscrutable destiny that has helped this nation survive a millennium of physical onslaught will interfere in this nefarious design too. However, there is no excuse for us to turn a blind eye on this stark reality or else Swami Vivekananda’s grave warning might well turn out to be true:

    • There are three dangers before us: (1) All castes other than the Brahmana will combine and create a new religion like Buddhism of the ancient times; (2) will embrace a foreign religion; or (3) all religious ideas will completely disappear from India … In the first alternative, all efforts to stabilise this very ancient civilisation will be fruitless. This India will revert back to childhood, and forgetting all her past glory will be able to advance only a little on the path of progress after a long time. In the second alternative, the Indian civilisation and the Aryan race will be destroyed very soon. For whoever goes out of the Hindu religion is not only lost to us, but also we have in him one more enemy. It is well known in history what great harm was done during the Muslim regime by the renegades who become enemies and destroyed their own hearth and home. In the third alternative, the cause of great danger lies in the fact that with the destruction of the foundation of life of an individual or a nation that individual or nation is destroyed. The life of the Aryan race is founded on religion. If that is destroyed, the downfall of the Aryan race is inevitable.

    The most immediate step is to work towards a national law against conversions; Tamil Nadu is certainly showing the way in putting an end to this menace. Secondly, a uniform civil code, which seems nowhere near implementation, will certainly help in striking a balance between the privilege-pampered minorities and the aggrieved majority. It is only when the uniform civil code is in place that the government can implement effectively family planning programmes among all communities. A theology-inspired birth rate is not a viable option in India.

    The book will seriously impact debate on this subject in years to come, and hopefully, influence our policy-makers and also shake Indian Religionists out of their complacency. Secularists and Communists who vainly dream of an India sans Indian Religionists should think twice; there will not be much space left for them either, if this guerrilla war is of demographic domination is allowed to continue.

    Sociologists in the country should come together to discuss the issue further and evolve effective policies to prevent any further deterioration. Just as bio-diversity is a rallying point among ecologists, ways to preserve the “theo-diversity” of India should become the focus of all demographic debate.

    – M. Pramod Kumar

    Title: Religious Demography of India
    Authors: A. P. Joshi, M. D. Srinivas and J. K. Bajaj
    Centre for Policy Studies
    27 Rajasekharan Street
    Chennai – 600 004
    E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    ISBN: 81-86041-15-x
    Price: Rs.800/- (hardbound), 346 pages
    Summary Essay Booklet, ISBN: 81-86041-16-8, available for Rs.25/-.