WITH EYES WIDE OPEN
D. N. Bezboruah
A few days ago, we were able to see the religion-wise breakup of India's population (as in the 2011 census)—four years after the census operations. This seems to have become a habit with the Registrar General of India over the last three decades. The same thing had happened to the census operations of 1991 and 2001—the religion-wise breakup was published three or four years after the rest of the census data had been made public. I have had occasion to write about this failing of the government on earlier occasions as well. After all, why should any government fight shy of mentioning the religion-wise breakup of the population unless it has had a hand in altering the tural growth of population and the demographic make-up? The World Almac, which is an annual publication, lists the religion-wise breakup of the population of every country listed in the book very prominently. By contrast, the hesitation of the Indian government to publish the religion-wise breakup is most remarkable since it gives the impression of having a hand in the demographic changes that have taken place. People can hardly be blamed for getting the impression that the government does not want this data of the census operation to be made public because in some way the government itself is responsible for it. This is something that has made me think, and I am almost certain that the government did have a hand in the demographic changes being what they are after going through the religion-wise breakup of the 2011 census figures.
The census data of the 2011 census can be summarized by stating that out of a population of 121.09 crore, the Hindus comprise 96.63 crore or 78.8 per cent of the population; the Muslims number 17.22 crore and constitute 14.2 per cent of the population; the Christians are 2.78 crore in number and comprise 2.3 per cent of the population; the Sikhs are 2.08 crore and constitute 1.7 per cent of the population; the Buddhists number 84 lakh and constitute 0.7 per cent of the population and the Jains number 45 lakh and comprise 0.4 per cent of the population. Something that is very visible is that India’s diversity is shrinking in respect of the smaller religious components of our population. Some alysts would also say that the fears of the Hindu population of India being in danger are illusory and misplaced—despite the fact that the rate of growth of the Muslim population has increased and that of the Hindu population declined margilly. The other significant aspects of the summary are that India today has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and will have the largest Muslim population before the middle of this century. Among Indian States, Assam has the largest Muslim population after Jammu & Kashmir. But there is a major difference. The Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir are indigenous inhabitants of the State, while in the case of Assam, the bulk of the Muslims are illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and their progeny. After the census of 2001, Assam had six districts with a Muslim majority. After the census of 2011, the number of districts with a Muslim majority has increased to nine. They are Barpeta, Dhubri, Karimganj, Goalpara, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Hailakandi, gaon and Morigaon. The three new districts added to the earlier list of six are Morigaon, Darrang and Bongaigaon.
Going back to the tiol level, there are a few rather intriguing facts about the growth rates of religious groups. In the census of 2001, Muslims had a growth rate of 45 per cent. This is not only startling but also odd, because the growth rate of Muslims in the 1991 census was 26 per cent (second highest after the Buddhists with a growth rate of 34 per cent). The growth rate of Muslims came down to 24.6 per cent in the 2011 census, but remained the highest for all religious groups. What defies all attempts at any ratiol explation is the decadal growth of 45 per cent in the 2001 census (quite inexplicable in normal conditions) and the sudden lowering to 24.6 per cent in the next decade. Similar inconsistencies are noticeable even in case of Christians and Jains. The Christians had a growth rate of 16 per cent in the census of 1991. This jumped to 26 per cent in the census of 2001 only to come down almost to the earlier level with 15.5 per cent growth in 2011. The case of the Jains is even more intriguing. Jains had a growth rate of six per cent in the 1991 census which rose to 23 per cent in the 2001 census only to come down again to 5.4 per cent in the 2011 census. There has been no explation for any of this either from the Registrar General of India or any other agency of the government. The only explations for the abnormal growth of the Muslim and Christian populations in the 2001 census that I can think of is that between 1991 and 2001 there was a very high rate of illegal migration from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh that resulted in the Muslim population growing by 45 per cent in a decade despite the signing of the Assam Accord. There are also fairly clear indications of the ruling political party actually encouraging such illegal migration in order to swell the illegal vote bank for electoral gains. The Christian population growth of 26 per cent between 1991 and 2001 could well be due to massive conversions in States like Aruchal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, parts of Odisha and elsewhere. What is difficult to explain is the Jain growth rate going from six per cent to 23 per cent in a decade and getting back again to even lower than the earlier levels. In any case, the Registrar General of India ought to feel obliged to provide explations for such unusual growth rates which have a way of coming back to their earlier levels again.
There can be no doubt at all that the growth in the Muslim and Christian segments of our population is not tural but rather orchestrated by politicians out of their greed for illegal vote-banks that win elections. We have seen what this has done to a State like Assam. Almost the entire growth of the Muslim population in Assam has been due to the large-scale illegal migration from Bangladesh that has been going on for decades. There has been very little growth of the indigenous Muslim population of Assam. After all, the indigenous Assamese Muslim is very different from the illegal migrant from Bangladesh. He and his wife are far better educated than the almost illiterate Bangladeshi migrant. He is monogamous and has a small family. Even the fertility rate for Assam establishes the fact that the abnormal growth in the population of Assam is entirely due to large-scale migration from Bangladesh. The fertility rate for Assam has remained margilly lower than the tiol average since 1928. The other major cause for the higher growth rate in the Muslim population of India is that almost all Muslims who have migrated from Bangladesh are polygamous and have very large families. Despite being a so-called secular republic, we have failed miserably in safeguarding secular principles by permitting people of just one faith to be polygamous. With such a dispensation and the inexplicable failure to implement a uniform civil code, the demographic changes to Assam that our lawmakers have brought about were not only anti-people and diabolic but carefully planned to be so. Whatever rights and privileges our elected representatives have, they do not have the right to alter the very demography of our State. When they sought the votes of the people they never once said they also wanted the right to create a flood of aliens in the State in order to go on winning elections without proper governce. And yet, over the decades we have seen what they have done to completely destabilize the demographic pattern of the State and alter its very composition. I am quite clear in my mind that no democracy bequeaths this evil power on its elected representatives. This is greatest act of treason against their own people who elected them to power.