Communal Politics With Women’s Wombs

It was Sakshi Maharaj, BJP MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, who kick-started the most recent bout of Hindutva hate and fear-mongering against the supposed ‘dangers’ to Hinduism from the ‘excessive’ growth in Muslim population in India.

"The concept of four wives and forty children just won't work in India but it is high time that every Hindu woman must produce at least four children to protect the Hindu religion", he said. Soon enough, he found ample support from his fellow travellers in the Sangh Parivar. Sadhvi Prachi, from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), jumped to defend his pronouncements. For BJP leader of W Bengal Shyamal Goswami, Hindu women needed to produce not four but five children to maintain an “equilibrium” [sic] in India and protect the ‘Sanatan Dharma’.” The Shankaracharya of Badrikashram, Vasudevanand Saraswati, decreed that at least ten children was a must for every Hindu family to ensure the reelection of Narendra Modi. The display of majoritarian prejudices in India has possibly never been more blatant, widespread and arrogant.

Predictably, the VHP has taken upon itself the onerous task of providing the ideological foundations for these fantastic ‘advices’: there is a disturbing “demographic imbalance” in India, as a result of which the proportion of Muslims is increasing, it explains. And to bolster this ‘argument’, the VHP points to what it sees as the epitome of this dangerous “demographic imbalance” – the Muslim majority in Kashmir!

Some claim these statements come from a ‘lunatic fringe’; they willfully forget that in 2002, Modi himself had similarly branded relief camps as ‘baby producing factories’; while Bal Thackeray had also called on Hindu women to produce more babies.

Let us call the bluff of this orchestrated scaremongering of a demographic “imbalance”. What exactly are the facts? Let’s take a look at some hard figures:

Percentage of Hindus and Muslims in India from 1961-2011

Year ---------- % of Hindus ----------- % of Muslims

1961 ---------- 83.5 ------------------ 10.7
1971 ---------- 82.7 ------------------ 11.2
1981 ---------- 82.3 ------------------ 11.8
1991 ---------- 81.6 ------------------ 12.6
2001 ---------- 80.5 ------------------ 13.4
2011 ---------- 79.6 ------------------ 14.2

Moreover, the 2011 census shows that the rate of growth of Muslims has actually decreased from 29% between 1991-2001 to 24% between 2001-2011. In fact, the rate of growth of Muslims in India in the previous decade (24%) is not all that much higher than the national average of 18% as the Hindutva scaremongers would have us believe. As Dilip D’Souza points out, if one were to extrapolate these figures, it will take another 220 years for Muslims to ‘catch up’ with the Hindus (if at all they do). And if they do, in the year 2233, we will have 56 billion Indian Muslims and 56 billion Indian Hindus – and a total population of a 100 times more than the present population crammed into the same geographic space that is India! Surely a highly unlikely and physically impossible situation? As D’Souza points out, it is far more likely that India’s population growth rates will slow down, and our population will eventually plateau and even decline. And in this scenario, Muslims will always remain a definite minority in India. The Hindutva scaremongering of the ‘decline’ of Hinduism is thus simply a useful bogey to intimidate Muslims and other minorities.

Further, it is absurd to propagate that polygamy causes Muslims to have more children. After all, a woman, whether she is in a monogamous marriage or a polygamous one, will bear the same number of children!

But this calculated scaremongering raises certain fundamental questions, and clearly underlines the Sangh Parivar’s vision for women in our society. The ease with which their ideologues are able to decree that women should produce “x” number of children highlights their vision of women as child-bearing machines and mere “producers” [sic] of the next generation of Hindus. It is, surely, a deeply patriarchal vision which refuses to respect the autonomy of women – apart from the obvious communal overtones which define this vision.

This attempt to push for more Hindu babies, in the name of ‘saving’ the Hindu religion, has certainly not gone uncontested. Several young women are stating loud and clear that their “Hindu wombs” are not available for the Sangh Parivar’s child-bearing project. Moreover, common Indians and Hindus are asking these self-proclaimed defenders of the Hindu faith: who will look after these kids, especially at a time when the State is abdicating itself from its fundamental duties of providing for education, health care, employment, livelihoods and dignity? There is no dearth of voices who are asking the Sangh Parivar if we should not be far more concerned at the abysmal state of malnutrition and child starvation in India, along with the pathetic state of education and healthcare.

Also, many are noting that the exhortations to women to bear more children is ironic, given that rural poor women are denied the choice of safe contraceptive options anyway, thereby dooming them to either keep bearing children, or risk deaths to meet the State’s sterilization targets. Nor is it easy to forget the lived reality of the huge proportion of women and children in India who die due to lack of proper pre and post natal care.

The communal and anti-woman campaign of the RSS and BJP must be challenged and busted.


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