As two elected representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including a union minister, cite rising Muslim population as a threat, the facts are: Muslim mothers have three children on average, while Hindus have two, but fertility rates are falling, and Muslim population growth is at a 20-year low.
No more than 18.4% of Indians will be Muslim by 2050, from 14.4% in 2011, and after 32 years, three in four Indians will be Hindu, according to a FactChecker analysis of available data. Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain fertility rates are lower than that of Hindu and Muslim.
On January 1, 2018–the year eight states go to the polls–union minister of state for micro, small & medium enterprises Giriraj Singh said a growing population, “especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country”, and Banwari Lal Singhal, a BJP legislator from Rajasthan said while Hindus have one or two children and focus on educating them, “Muslims worried about (sic) how to take over the nation by increasing their population.”
The latest figures on children per mother by religious group are more than a decade old, sourced from National Family Health Survey, 2005-06 (NFHS-3). Hindu and Muslim fertility rates are falling at an equal pace, data show. Despite the decadal increase in the proportion of Muslims in India from 13.4% in 2001 to 14.4%, as per Census 2011, Muslim population growth recorded a 20-year low in 2011–falling to 24.6% from 32.8% in 1991, a decline, as we said, similar to that of Hindus (22.7% in 1991 to 16.7% in 2011).
Despite the 4-percentage-point rise in the proportion of Muslims over the next 32 years, there is no likelihood they can–as the BJP leaders suggest–outnumber Hindus, according to projections made in 2015 by Pew Research Center, a think tank based in the US.
Muslims want to take over nation by increasing population: Rajasthan legislator
“Hindus giving birth to only 1 or 2 children and are worried about educating them,” said Rajasthan member of legislative assembly Singhal. “But Muslims worried (sic) about how to take over the nation by increasing their population; education and development has no significance to them. It’s my personal opinion.”
"Hindus giving birth to only 1 or 2 children & are worried about educating them.But Muslims worried about how to take over the nation by increasing their population,education & development has no significance to them. Its my personal opinion."says Rajasthan BJP MLA BL Singhal pic.twitter.com/Jstjr5R5zN
— ANI (@ANI) January 1, 2018
Singhal’s statement generated discussion and debates on television channels and social media.
BJP MLA Banwari Lal Singhal, from Alwar, has triggered a massive row by alleging that Muslim were deliberately giving birth to more children in order to out number Hindus by 2030. Report by Arvind Singh in conversation with @roypranesh #BigotBanwari pic.twitter.com/2V8xOkVygZ
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) January 1, 2018
In a similar statement to Singhal’s, union minister Singh said “the growing population of the country, especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country”.
The growing population of the country, especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country: Union Minister Giriraj Singh pic.twitter.com/iM8nDRwoif
— News18 (@CNNnews18) January 2, 2018
In brief, these are the claims made:
Claim 1: Hindus give birth only to one or two children; Muslims worried about how to take over the nation by increasing their population: BL Singhal
Claim 2: Growing Muslim population is a threat to social fabric, social harmony and development of the country: Giriraj Singh
Let’s explore these claims in detail.
Fact 1: 2.6 births per Hindu woman, 3.4 births per Muslim woman: NFHS 3
The rise in population is linked to the total fertility rate (TFR), the number of children a woman has over her childbearing years.
The TFR for Hindus in 2005-06 was 2.6 births per woman and 3.4 for Muslims, according to NFHS 3, the latest available fertility rate by religion.
The fertility rate for Indian Muslim women fell from 4.1 in 2001 to 3.2 in 2010 and is expected to be 2.1 by 2050, FactChecker reported on April 15, 2015, quoting from a Pew report. Hindu fertility rates are 2.5, expected to fall to 1.9 by 2050, below the replacement level–a point at which population stabilises–of 2.1.
“India’s Muslim community will expand faster than its Hindu population, rising from 14.4% in 2010 to 18.4% in 2050,” the Pew report said. “But, even with this increase, Hindus will make up more than three-in-four Indians (76.7%) in 2050. Indeed, the number of Hindus in India will still be larger than the five largest Muslim populations in the world’s biggest Muslim countries (India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh) combined.”
Fertility rates in India are more closely related to education levels and the socio-economic development within a state, than to religious beliefs, IndiaSpend reported on August 10, 2016. Richer families, states with better health facilities and higher female literacy have lower fertility rates, the analysis revealed.
Fact 2: Muslim population growth at 20-year low; Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists have least children
India is home to more than 1.21 billion people: 79.8% Hindu (966 million), 14.2% Muslim (172 million), 2.3% Christian (28 million) and 1.7% Sikh (20 million), among major religious groups, according to Census 2011 data.
Over the decade to 2011, India’s population grew 17.7%. Muslim population grew fastest at 24.6%, followed by Hindu (16.8%), Christian (15.5%), Sikh (8.4%) and Buddhist (6.1%), according to census 2011 data released by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner on August 25, 2015.
The proportion of Muslims in Indian population increased from 13.4% in 2001 to 14.2% in 2011; the proportion of Hindus declined from 80.5% in 2001 to 79.8% in 2011; Sikhs decreased from 1.9% to 1.7% over the same period. There was no change in Christian and Jain proportions.
Based on the data released by the government in August 2015, media reports also pointed out that Islam was the fastest growing religion in India.
However, as we said, Muslim population growth fell to a 20-year low to 24.6% in 2011, the proportion of Muslims increasing across all states.
Population Growth Of Hindus And Muslims, 1901-2011
The decadal population growth rates of both Hindus–22.7% (1991), 19.9% (2001), 16.7% (2011)–and Muslims–32.8% (1991), 29.5% (2001), 24.6% (2011)–are declining, as we said.
The growth rate of Muslim population will continue to decline and will “stabilise” to the rate of Hindu population growth, Ram Puniyani, a social activist and former professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, wrote in Countercurrents.org, an online opinions portal, on March 2, 2017.
“Interestingly, the population increase of Hindus during the period of 2001 to 2011 has been 133 millions (sic), which is close to the total population of Muslims in 2001,” wrote Puniyani. “The scare being spread through (a) word-of-mouth campaign and through social media about Muslim population taking over the Hindu population holds no water, as there are clear trends of decline in the decadal rate of growth of (the) Muslim population as well.”
(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.)