Muslim Population Increasing

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By Sushil Silvano, Our Special Correspondent. Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: Population control has been a touchy subject in India. Although imperative, birth control has never been treated as a socio-economic issue but, unfortunately, as a religious issue. The narrative that has been built up over the years is that because of a high birth rate, the Muslim population will overtake the Hindu population leading to demographic dominance of Muslims.

If anything, this narrative is based on false assumptions and fuels only religious calumny and fears.

Hence, any talk of coercive control of births immediately and wrongly points the needle of suspicion towards the Muslims.

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It will be very pertinent to note that the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi lost in 1977 over some important issues, including coercive family planning. Turkman Gate episode, during the Emergency years on the orders of Sanjay Gandhi, has still not been erased from public memory.

Several State governments have a policy in place or are talking of having such a policy. India’s most populated constituent  Uttar Pradesh is the latest to join this group.

No wonder, the situation is highly charged since July 11 when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced the

State’s population policy for 2021-2030, the provisions of which would come into force one year after the date of publication of the Gazette.

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The CM said the increasing population was the root of major problems and prevailing inequality in society. “Increasing population can be an obstacle to development,” he said, stating that the new policy was drafted keeping in mind all sections of society.

If there is no gap between the birth of two children, then naturally it will affect their nutrition, he said explaining the need for spacing and control in population.

The new policy aims to decrease the Total Fertility Rate from 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026 and 1.7 by 2030; increase Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate from 31.7 to 45 by 2026 and 52 by 2030; increase male methods of contraception use from 10.8 to 15.1 by 2026 and 16.4 by 2030; decrease Maternal Mortality Rate from 197 to 150 to 98 and Infant Mortality Rate from 43 to 32 to 22 and Under 5 Infant Mortality Rate from 47 to 35 to 25.

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Targeting population stabilization, the draft of the policy also said the state would attempt to maintain a balance of population among the various communities.

“Awareness and extensive programs would be held among those communities, cadres and geographical areas that have a higher fertility rate,” the policy read.

The policy comes at a time when The Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has prepared a proposed draft bill for population control, under which a two-child norm would be implemented and promoted.

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A person who will have more than two children after the law comes into force would be debarred from several benefits such as government-sponsored welfare schemes, ration card units would be limited to four, and the person will be barred from contesting elections to the local authority or anybody of the local self-government, the draft says.

The person contravening the law would also become ineligible to apply for government jobs under the State government, will be barred from promotion in government services, and will not receive any kind of subsidy. The provisions would come into force one year after the date of publication of the gazette, the draft says.

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Yogi said several efforts had been made in the past four years to decrease the TFR, MMR, and IMR, and reasonable success was achieved. In 2016, the TFR was 3.3 against the national average of 2.6, he said. The current TFR was 2.7 while the national average was 2.3, he said. The MMR in 2016 was 258 against the national average of 178. Today, it stood at 197, while the national average was 113. Five years ago, the IMR was 53 while the national average was 42. Today, it stands at 43 against the national average of 33.

The State’s policy also aims at increasing the life expectancy from 64.3 to 69 by 2030 and child sex ratio (0-6 years) from 899 to 919 by 2030.

Uttar Pradesh first launched its population policy in 2000.

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Muslims form the largest minority group in UP with a total population of over 30.7 million as of 2001. It is also the second-largest community with 18 percent Islam followers in the Hindu (80 percent) dominated state. With a 51 percent Muslim population, Rampur district is the only district in India with the largest Muslim population as compared with Hinduism.

According to figures provided by the Census of India, Muslims have witnessed decent growth in their population in the last 50 years as compared to Hindus. In 1961, Muslims were 10.7 percent of the total population whereas Hindus were 83.4 percent. In 2001, this ratio changed slightly with the Muslim population grew to 13.4 percent while Hindus total population decreased to 80.5 percent. Going by this rise in the Muslim population, recent estimates suggest that the Muslim population has gone up to 14.5 percent as of 2015, whereas the Hindus population has declined below 80 percent.

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One of the important facts about the Population growth of Muslims is that Women fertility rate of Muslims is slightly higher than Hindu Women. With a growth rate of 24% from 2001 – 2011, Muslim Population growth is much higher than the national average growth of 18% during this period.

In his book, noted author and top bureaucrat Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi dismisses the right-wing Hindu nationalists narrative about the rising Muslim population.

Quraishi said Hindus will always remain in the majority in the country.

Quraishi, who also served as Chief Election Commissioner, states that Muslims are embracing family planning at a faster pace than Hindus and that high birth rates are due to solely “non-religious factors.”

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Muslims, who number 172 million as per the 2011 census, will never outnumber the majority 966.3 million Hindus, said Quraishi, who recently published “The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning, and Politics in India.”

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, he said: “A widespread narrative in India suggests that Muslims have too many children, skewing the national demographic balance…the right-wing [Hindu nationalists] propaganda alleges that this is all part of a deliberate plan by Muslims to capture political power in the country, and the common belief that Islam is against family planning.”

” have tried to cover the facts, figures, and myths about the prevalence of family planning practices among Muslims in India,” he said.

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Several “conspiracy theories” have been floated, mainly by right-wing Hindu groups, that the number of Muslims in the country – nearly 172 million – would eventually outnumber the 966.3 million Hindus in the country.

Quraishi, however, says the Muslim population will never exceed the Hindu population.

“It is an established fact that Muslims in India have been rapidly adopting family planning. The National Family Health Surveys have shown that over the past three decades, new-generation Muslim families have done a better job at family planning than their Hindu compatriots,” he said.

When asked about the perception that the Muslim population in India is growing faster than the Hindu population, Quraishi says the percentage of the Muslim population in the country has increased from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011. But now, they are adopting family planning at a faster rate than Hindus.

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“This is why the family planning gap between the two communities is narrowing,” he said while maintaining that “high birth is dependent on purely non-religious factors,” and wide regional variation in family planning practices across states “indicates there is no Muslim or Hindu birth rate.”

The former election commissioner has also talked about the misconceptions dominating society and their realities.

“The primary misconception is that Muslims produce too many children that disturb the demographic balance. Even though it is true that Muslims have the lowest level of family planning practice at 45.3%, but they are taking to family planning fast, in fact, faster than Hindus,” he states, adding that a common misconception is that Islam is against family planning, but in reality, “Holy Quran has nowhere prohibited family planning.”

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India’s last census, conducted in 2011, revealed that Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, while Muslims make up 14.2%. This year, the country will conduct one of the most extensive censuses in its history.

Quraishi says, “Myths have been spread systematically for decades” and have “penetrated deep into the minds of the Hindu masses,” there is a need to reach a large audience through the use of multiple media sources.

“As authentic information is seldom accessible and, in its absence, negative propaganda thrives,” he says, “it was imperative to produce at least one good reference book illustrating the Islamic tenets for the Muslim audience.”

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The author has advocated several steps for the Muslim community, which can dispel the propaganda surrounding its population growth.

“Since this is a highly sensitive subject, the communication strategy has to be evolved with extreme care and caution,” he said. “The approach has to be rational rather than emotional, informative rather than didactic, and, most importantly, persuasive rather than antagonistic.”

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Compiled and Curated By Humra Kidwai

 

Sushil Silvano

Mr. Sushil Silvano, our special correspondent is a celebrated veteran Journalist and Author and is currently based in Mumbai, India. He is the National Secretary of the Indian Journalists Union, an affiliate of the "International Federation of Journalists". He strongly believes in developing awareness through the power of Media and has chaired the Mumbai Chapter of Public Relations Council of India (PRCI) and is currently the Chairman of the Lucknow Chapter of PRCI.

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