Muslim demographic expansion and the future of India

It’s an open secret that Muslim population growth has continuously outstripped Hindu population growth in India. Even the most ignorant, uneducated persons are likely to be aware of this fact. Even our leftists, although they keep denying its relevance, acknowledge the veracity of this information from time to time. But what is not commonly known or understood is the extent and nature of this demographic growth, and the ramifications it is likely to have for the country’s future.

The rise and rise of Islam

Data from the 2011 Census revealed a startling fact- Hindus had for the first time in the Indian State’s History fallen below the 80% threshold. This is a major psychological barrier that has been breached, but it is actually just the continuation of a trend that has been going on for a very, very long time. Muslims on the other hand were again able to increase as a proportion of the population- this time going from 13.43% (2001 Census) to 14.23% in 2011. If we look at previous data going back to the first post-independence Census in 1951, we find that Muslims only made up 9.8% of the population in that year. In absolute terms, in the 60 years from 1951 to 2011, the Muslim population went up from 35.4 million to slightly more than 172 million, an increase of approximately five times.

A pretty standard mainstream rebuttal to these figures goes something like this: Yes, Muslims have been steadily increasing as a percentage of the population, but this rate of increase is so slow that it would in fact take them centuries to become a majority, and anyways, both Muslim and Hindu birth rates have been declining with better access to education and contraception, so soon enough when Muslims reach parity with Hindus in educational/economic metrics, they will also stop having excess children vis-à-vis Hindus. Thus, according to them, all this talk of Muslim demographic growth is just usual right wing fear mongering and there’s really nothing to worry about.

On the face of it, this seems like a series of valid arguments against rising fears of Muslim population growth, but there are multiple holes in this line of reasoning. Although the Muslim fertility rate has also been declining just like the fertility rates for all other religious communities in India, there remains a substantial gap in the Muslim and Non-Muslim fertility rate. In fact, the gap actually tends to increase if we look at it in percentage terms rather than absolute numbers. For example, if two decades ago, each Hindu woman was estimated to have to four children, and each Muslim woman was expected to have five, then that would mean that the Muslim fertility rate was 25% higher than the Hindu fertility rate. Now, if both the communities have seen a decline in their fertility rates such that the Hindu fertility rate has dropped to 2 and the Muslim fertility rate has dropped to 2.8, this now means that the Muslim fertility rate is actually 40% higher even though the gap may have reduced in absolute terms.

The numbers in perspective

This is exactly what unfolds with increased education and better socio-economic metrics; Hindu fertility rates tend to collapse to sub-replacement level (below 2.1 children per woman) and the Muslim fertility rate, although it declines, never declines to the extent of the Hindu/Non-Muslim fertility rate and in fact actually increases in percentage terms over the Hindu Fertility rate. Thus, Educational and economic upliftment are not going to solve the problem of Muslim demographic expansion. One only need look at the case of Kerala to see how this entire process works out.

It is common knowledge that Kerala beats every other State in India when it comes to the Human Development Index. It also certainly falls among the group of “wealthy” States (relatively speaking) in terms of per capita incomes. The three major religious communities of the State, i.e. the Hindus, Muslims and Christians have nearly identical literacy rates and income levels. Does that result in nearly identical Fertility rates? Absolutely not. As per the data from Census 2011, Muslims formed 26.46% of the State’s population. But latest statistics show that in 2015, 41.45% of all live births were to Muslim families. In simple terms, a community which is supposed to be a quarter of the population, is producing four out of every ten children. Obviously this massive over representation of Muslim births results from the fact that Muslims have a much higher fertility rate compared to Hindus; data shows that Hindus and Christians have both had their Fertility rates crash to about 1.5 while Muslims continue to maintain an above replacement level fertility rate at nearly 2.3. This means that the Muslim Fertility rate in Kerala is around 50% higher compared to the other two major religious communities, even after a rise in living standards and literacy.

If this demographic trend continues, Muslims will become the single largest religious community in Kerala within a few decades, if not the outright majority; Kerala is not the only State in the country where the Muslim population is rapidly moving towards the demographic Hindu majority. Data from the 2011 Census shows that Muslims have become 34.22% of Assam’s population, up from 30.9% in the 2001 Census, while forming a massive 45% of the population in the 0-4 age group. Considering these figures, it is quite likely that now in 2017, Muslims are likely contributing to more than 50% of the births in Assam. Even without taking into account the steady influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the Muslims within Assam will almost certainly turn it into India’s second Muslim State.

Similarly, in the neighbouring State of West Bengal, which also shares a long porous border with Bangladesh, Muslims have become 27% of the population as of 2011, up from 25.25% in 2001. In the age group 0-4, they form nearly 35% of the population. If this demographic rise of the Muslims in the State is not reversed soon, Hindus in West Bengal will likely lose this part of their Homeland too, just like they lost East Bengal.

All these figures show that even if Muslims will not become an outright majority in the whole of the country, we will likely have many more Muslim States in the future, which is a cause of serious concern since the only Muslim majority State right now, that is Jammu and Kashmir, is the scene of a violent secessionist insurgency against the State and has, over the years, witnessed incredibly vicious attacks against its Hindu minority. We cannot assume that the eventual result will be any different for Assam, Kerala or West Bengal. Already, Kerala is home to the largest number of Islamic State sympathizers in the country, and dozens of youths from the State have left to fight for IS’s branch in Afghanistan. In West Bengal, violence and intimidation against Hindus is already on the rise, even while the Muslims are still a minority. Perhaps the leftist enablers of Muslim belligerence and demographic conquest should look at neighbouring Bangladesh to see how Secular/Liberal bloggers are grappling with routine acts of violence in a Muslim majority society.

A doomed future?

There’s a lot of talk going on these days that the rapid economic growth we’re witnessing may transform India into a Superpower at the world stage. Some say that the Indian economy may even overtake the US economy to become number 2 in purchasing power parity terms. In my opinion, even while the country has moved in the direction of greater deregulation and opening of the Economy, and the State seems committed to even more reforms to propel economic growth, India’s future will not be prosperous and secure if the demographic threat to the country’s fundamental integrity is not addressed in the coming years.

India already sits in an increasingly dangerous neighbourhood; the Government in Afghanistan is quickly losing control over large parts of the country even as the United States and its allies continue to pour billions of US dollars towards a seemingly futile cause. The Pakistani State itself has a love-hate relationship with Extremist groups, and no one really knows how that is going to play out when the Western backed Government in Kabul collapses. The effects on India’s security will be disastrous- Afghanistan will again become a vast refuge for specifically anti-Indian Jihadist groups which will intensify the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir and quite likely lead to large-scale attacks on civilians in Indian cities.

The Indian State may still be very well able to deal with such a reinvigorated Insurgency in the future. But a situation where we have an ever expanding and increasingly antagonistic fifth column within the Indian mainland will not be as manageable. All economic gains and progress will eventually evaporate if this scenario unfolds, which has the full potential of turning into a civil war in which India’s neighbouring rivals would also become involved by funnelling funds and arms to their favourite anti-state groups.

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