Modi Regime Fans Islamophobia, Cracks Down On Rights

(It is difficult to keep track of the daily assaults on our liberties, and daily doses of hate, that are being unleashed on India by the Modi regime. This feature aims to track and analyse some of the major developments on these fronts, each of which is a step in the direction of fascism in India. We cover the BJP’s Islamophobic ‘World Population Day’ rhetoric, the FIRs against Miyah poets of Assam on the eve of the NRC final list, the attacks on syllabi, professors and posters in Universities, the attempts by the German Ambassador to India to legitimise RSS, and the amendments to various laws, to make them even more draconian, or to erode hard-won rights to transparency and democracy. - Ed)

Communal Fear-Mongering About Muslims

ELECTED representatives of India’s ruling party BJP, and members of Indian PM Modi’s Cabinet World observed World Population Day (11 July) by stoking poisonous communal myths about Muslim population in India.

Union Minister Giriraj Singh addressed a rally at Jantar Mantar on that day demanding a Population Control Law to tackle what he called the “problem of declining Hindu population and the rise of non-Hindu population.”

Genocidal Hate-Speech

Participants at the rally openly indulged in violent genocidal hate-speech. One participant called for the curtailment of the human rights of Muslims. Another lamented that the Constitution of India prevented him from carrying out his wish to behead all Muslims. The rally spread poisonous and false propaganda claiming that Muslims would outnumber Hindus if the population growth rates continued as of today, thanks to Muslim personal law allowing polygamy.

Not long ago, Surendra Singh, a BJP MLA from Ballia (UP) had declared that Muslims were like animals, and “keep 50 wives and give birth to 1050 children.” Last year, he had made the same statement, and had called for every Hindu couple to bear at least five children.

This kind of communal propaganda, claiming Muslims will outnumber Hindus using the tools of polygamy, ‘love jehad’ (inter faith marriage with Hindu women), and “Bangladeshi infiltration” is a familiar script from the communal sourcebook of RSS and BJP. After the Gujarat 2002 pogrom, Narendra Modi who was then Gujarat Chief Minister and is now India’s Prime Minister, had called the relief camps for the riot-affected Muslims, “baby-producing factories”.

In 2015, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj had urged Hindu couples to have four children. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader “Sadhvi” Prachi had repeated this prescription, in the process spewing hate against homosexual relationships. Defending her statement, she had added that she wanted Hindus to have “four children, not forty puppies” - implying that Muslims are like dogs.

Busting The Myth

This propaganda is proven false by census data. Population growth rates are linked to factors like illiteracy, deprivation, and poverty. With improving literacy of Muslim women, Muslim population growth rates are actually falling at a far faster rate than that of Hindus. From the 1991-2001 census to the 2001-2011 census, the growth rate of Hindus declined by 3.16%, while the corresponding decline for Muslims was significantly sharper at 4.92%. Muslim population growth is currently the lowest it has been in the past two decades.   

Likewise, the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey data showed a significant drop in the fertility rates of Muslim women, corresponding to higher literacy rates. Fertility rates of Hindu households fell from 2.6 in the last (2005-06) survey to 2.1 in the 2015-16 survey, while that of Muslim households fell from 3.4 to 2.6. Even more significantly, the survey found that the gap in fertility rates between Muslim and Hindu households fell from 30.8 per cent in 2005-06, to 23.8 per cent in 2015-16.

To put the Muslim fertility rate of 2.6 in perspective, it must be remembered that the fertility rate of Scheduled Tribes (STs) is 2.5, that for Scheduled Castes (SCs) is 2.3, and OBCs is 2.2, while the fertility rates of the states of UP, Bihar, and MP stand at 3. In other words, educationally backward and marginalised communities and states show higher fertility rates, while communities and states with access to better health facilities and higher female literacy have lower fertility rates. The fertility rate of Muslims in a state like Kerala (where literacy, especially female literacy, is high), is lower than that of Hindus in a state like UP (where literacy and female literacy is low).
‘Bangladeshi Infiltrators’ Myth

The communal propaganda of RSS and BJP also claims Muslim population has increased due to illegal immigration from Bangladesh. This propaganda, which uses the hateful word ‘infiltrator’ for immigrants, is deployed most in the states bordering Bangladesh, most notably Assam and West Bengal. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam for which the last date is July 31, 2019 has been accompanied by communal rhetoric by BJP leaders. During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Amit Shah’s speeches used dehumanising language about Muslims, saying Bangladeshi Muslim “termites” must be weeded out using the NRC.  

The facts firmly belie all these claims of “illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh.” Census data shows that Muslim population grew at the same rate as India’s Muslim population between 1991 and 2001, while the rate of growth of West Bengal’s Muslim population was slower. Assam’s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes populations grew at a higher rate than the state’s Muslim population.

The the all-India growth rate of Muslims between 1971 and 1991 was 71.47%, while the growth rate for Muslims of Assam in the same period was marginally higher at 77.42%. And the growth rate of Assam’s Muslims in 1971-1991 was in fact lower than the community’s growth rate in other states: Uttar Pradesh (76.30%), West Bengal (77.32%), Madhya Pradesh (80.76%), Rajasthan (98.29%), Tripura (89%), Punjab (110.32%) and Himachal Pradesh (77.64%).

Abdul Mannan, former professor of statistics at Gauhati University, and author of a recent book, Infiltration: Genesis of Assam Movement, asks “If those who say Bangladeshi immigrants have ballooned the population of Muslims in Lower Assam, then how would they explain their high growth rate in the districts of Tinsukia (89.56%), Golaghat (97.24%) and Dibrugarh (68.43%), which are in Upper Assam, where the presence of migrant Muslims is negligible?”

The fact is, as we saw above in the all-India context, population growth rates tend to be higher where there is greater, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and poor health services. Assam is no exception.

Should People’s Citizenship Be Endangered On A Flimsy, Biased Basis?

Even the Supreme Court, in monitoring the NRC exercise in Assam, has accepted a claim touted by India’s Home Ministry, that the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’ numbers amounting to 50 lakhs in Assam. In fact, a reply given by the Ministry of Home Affairs to a recent RTI query admitted that these numbers “were not based on any comprehensive or sample study but were based on hearsay and that too from interested parties. Therefore, no realistic figures can be given for illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam. In the case of West Bengal also the figures are based on unreliable estimates and are incorrect.”

It is disturbing that such “hearsay” and “unreliable estimates” have become the basis for an exercise which is set to strip several lakhs of Indians in Assam of citizenship on July 31, 2019.

The BJP’s and RSS’ communal campaign of falsehoods and fear-mongering about Muslim population and immigration is aimed at creating support for its Hindu majoritarian and genocidal agenda. This campaign, orchestrated directly by the Modi Government, must be urgently exposed and resisted.