Grist for the communal mills

Generally speaking, the 2011 Census reveals that the decadal rate of growth

The Manmohan Singh government had held it back, considering the potential for its disruptive use on the eve of the last Lok Sabha election, but the Modi government has opted to release the data on Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011 just weeks before the politically sensitive Bihar Assembly election is to be held.

The decadal rate of growth of India’s Muslim population between 2001 and 2011 — at 24.6 per cent — has been the lowest since 1951. But for those seeking to give the information a communal twist for political gain, the Hindu-supremacist elements for instance, this is not a datum worth their attention. Their calculation is apt to be that a better electoral harvest can conceivably accrue from asserting the narrative that the rate of growth of Muslim population in the country is higher than that of the Hindus.

Interestingly, the new data shows that the rate of decadal growth in the Hindu population has also come down — from 19.92 to 16.76 — but the decline is less than in the case of the Muslims — from 29.52 to 24.60 per cent on an all-India basis. Information of this nature will be of greater interest to serious analysts and social scientists than vicious tub-thumpers.

Generally speaking, the 2011 Census reveals that the decadal rate of growth of all religious communities is down, though none as marked as the Muslims. The Muslim fertility rates are falling faster than that of Hindus. On the whole, the percentage of the different religious communities in the population pie shows only very minor changes except in specific cases like Assam where the Muslim ratio has gone up appreciably in all probability on account of migration from Bangladesh, or Uttarakhand which typically draws people from UP.

On a purely human basis, it simply shouldn’t matter which communities have enhanced or declined demographically, but popularised communal folklore has sought to suggest that Muslims raise their population numbers in order to outnumber the Hindus and seize political control. The data on view — that of sharply declined decadal growth of the Muslim population — contradicts this view.

At its most rudimentary, demographic theory holds that both birth and the death rates are high among relatively poor communities, and a decline is registered in both indices with the spread of education and economic growth. It is something of a reaffirmation of this that we may be witnessing in India as well, though the data is apt to vary from state to state.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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