Will Muslims overtake Hindus in India ? ….No

Modern india was born with “Partition shock”, time and again this congenital mark comes to the political forefront. Rhetoric of increasing muslim population was leveraged by Hindutva brigade to sensationalize half baked numbers about growth of Muslim population. Recent release of socio-economic data also including religion as one of the variable. As they say, you can prove anything with cherry picking. Key argument of brigade is Muslims have grown faster than Hindu, this indeed is correct, but this hides more than it shows.

  1. There is nothing like muslim fertility rate or hindu fertility rate. In a larger sense there no pan indian monolithic identity of either community. Muslims in UP have higher fertility rate than Muslims in Tamilnadu, similar is for Hindus. So fertility is more of a function of local cultural universe which stems from socio-economic standing of people rather than overarching framework of religion.
  2. Though in post independence era muslims did have higher growth rates than Hindus, but rates are fast converging. Growth rate was higher, but it is deccelerating and soon enough hindus and muslims have equal rates. Previous high growth was product of socio-cultural-economic backwardness rather than any deliberate strategy to overtake india. Perhaps if Indian state would act on recommendations of Sachar committee and Ranganath mishra commission and pull muslims out of backwardness, this population problem would not existed at all.
  3. Now the larger question of correlation of fertility rate and cultural differences among communities. Conventional wisdom of economics says with increasing levels of economic prosperity fertility rates fall. Sex ratios also have close relation with population growth, often stable and secular growth of christians in india has been explained by their optimum sex ratio. Strong son preference, a key characteristic of indian society leads to unwanted fertility rate. Unless a son is born people keeping on having more children. Women education is determining factor, education not only gives women more control over their bodies while making decisions of bearing a child, it also incentivizes more children as child rearing in early stages of career, women have to a great trade off to make. Perhaps focus of the state should be on education of muslim women, they have literacy rate worse than many SC/ST communities in India.

Population growth is an issue, a problem of ethical nature and in diverse cultural environment in india it has a strong political implication. Great problems pave way for great changes and great progress. It is time we move behind dichotomy of Hindu-Muslim and solve the problem of excess fertility rates with education, family planning, poverty elimination and above all a cultural renaissance in indian society.

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