Explained: Is Hindu population really declining as BJP suggests?

Contrary to the myth of a rapid increase in the Muslim population in India, data from the Census of India indicates a consistent decrease in the decadal growth rate of Muslims

A recent paper by a government-linked organisation on population trends has sparked widespread debate and discussions. While many question the timing of the release of the paper as Lok Sabha elections are underway, BJP and the right wing are using the same with a communal spin, insisting that Muslim population has been growing in India at an ‘alarming rate’ and Hindu population declining.

Many reports cite the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) working paper released recently to suggest a significant rise in Muslim population even as the Hindu population has seen a decline. However, the paper itself doesn’t suggest that. It only points out the change in percentage share of Muslim population is higher. 

The EAC-PM study analysed the population growth rates of religious groups from 1950 to 2015. The paper states: “The share of the majority Hindu population decreased by 7.82% between 1950 and 2015 (from 84.68% to 78.06%). The share of Muslim population in 1950 was 9.84% and increased to 14.09% in 2015 – a 43.15% increase in their share.” 

MS Education Academy

A more conventional way of saying the same would be that the population of Muslims grew by 4.2 percentage points and it declined by 6.6 percentage points in case of Hindus.

An expert in social sciences said that even as percentage growth gives a massive growth rate, the share still remains critically low. The change in percentage points gives a fairer picture. 

5 Hindus added for every Muslim since 1950

The Hindu population stood at approximately 320 million in 1950, a number that has more than tripled in the past seven decades. Hindus remain the largest religious group in the country in absolute figures. 

Over the same period, the Muslim population has increased fivefold, from 37 million to 181 million. The Christian and Sikh populations, among other religious minority groups, have also experienced faster growth compared to Hindus.

While the proportion of Hindus in India’s total population has declined from 85 percent in 1950, they still constitute around 78 percent of the total population. In contrast, the proportion of Muslims, who comprised 10 percent of the total population in 1950, rose to 14 percent by 2015.

According to an article in Business Standard, the population trends over the years suggest that 5 Hindus added for every Muslim since 1950.

Selective portrayal by BJP

As soon as the paper came out, many BJP leaders including Union minister Rajeev Chandreshekhar, Anurag Thakur, Giriraj Singh issued statements reinforcing the right wing’s fear-mongering narrative, and blamed Congress for ‘illegal immigration’ and religious conversions.

Rajeev Chandrashekhar asked why the Muslim population has grown so much and blamed ‘illegal immigration’.

“This is what decades of Congress rule did to us. Left to them, there would be no country for Hindus,” BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya said while reacting to the study.

“Muslims need to stop calling themselves a minority,” said Union minister Griraj Singh, expressing concern over the ‘decline in Hindu population’.

Citing the paper, I&B Minister Anurag Thakur asked how Muslims can feel insecure in the country, especially when their “population has increased by 45 per cent”.

‘Old data used to incite discrimination’

According to The New Minute, “The data from the paper says nothing new when compared to Census data till 2011, but is being used to give credence to the polarising Hindu-Muslim communal narrative pushed by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the ongoing elections.”

Many organisations, including Population Front of India (PFI) have expressed concerns over the misreporting of the paper. Such interpretation is inaccurate and baseless, the PFI said. They also urged the authorities that such misinterpretations should not be used to incite fear and discrimination against the Muslim community across the country.

Contrary to the myth of a rapid increase in the Muslim population in India, data from the Census of India indicates a consistent decrease in the decadal growth rate of Muslims over the past three decades. 

The decadal growth rate of the Muslim population decreased from 32.9 percent in 1981–1991 to 24.6 percent in 2001–2011, a decline that is more significant than that of Hindus. During the same period, the decadal growth rate of the Hindu population also experienced a decline, from 22.7 percent to 16.8 percent, marking a 2.41 percent greater decrease compared to the decline in Muslim population growth.

On the other hand, The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) among all religious groups is declining. The highest decrease from 2005-06 to 2019-21 was observed among Muslims, which dropped by 1 percentage point, followed by Hindus at 0.7 percentage points.

Back to top button