The Census 2001 has given India a wake up call. A Hindu majority in every region of the country is an implicit guarantee of its integrity, civilizational vitality and economic prosperity. It is a tragedy; India has no uniform civil code. In the absence of which, some minority groups are given the privileges of democratic, modern, permissiveness, even as they enjoy the protections of outdated religious dictats. In such a situation all efforts of the state to have an enlightenend population policy are defeated. The changing religious profile of Indian population has a strong impact on the future of India. And it continues to be amongst the major determinants of strife.
Fortunately, unlike the caste and community affiliations, the religious affiliations of the people of India have always been recorded in the Census operations. Therefore, it is possible to obtain a fairly accurate picture of the changes in the relative strength of different religions. At the time of the first detailed census in 1881, the Hindus constituted about 79 per cent and the rest were mainly Muslims and Christians.
In their brilliant study on Religious Demography of India, A.P. Joshi, M.D. Srinivas and J.K. Bajaj say, up to about 1200 AD, India showed remarkable religious and civilizational homogeneity. Notwithstanding the great geographical expanse of India and the linguistic and cultural specificities of people living in different regions, there prevailed an almost timeless consensus on fundamental civilizational principles. These basic principles of India, which found expressions in sophisticated philosophical discourses as well as in lay beliefs and practices, are collectively known by the name of Sanatana Dharma, the timeless discipline that forms the core of all religious doctrines of Indian origin. All those who entered India from outside soon accepted these basic civilizational principles. This changed after Islamic invasions. After more than five centuries of Islamic rule and at the pinnacle of Mughal domination during the first half of the seventeenth century, the proportion of Muslims in the population of India had reached no more than 16 per cent. This indeed is a measure of the resilience of Indian civilizational values.
India after Partition had a substantial majority of Hindus; but their proportion has been declining throughout the twentieth century. This proportion declined from 86.6 per cent in 1901 to 84.4 per cent in 1941. Between 1941 and 1951, their proportion rose by about 2.8 per cent as a result of the forced and violent transfer of population that occurred at the time of Partition. And in the following five decades the proportion of Hindus in India has declined by the same 2.2 per cent as in the four decades prior to Partition. Consequently, there has been a net decline of 1.6 per cent in the proportion of Hindus in India, between 1901 and 1991. This trend continues, even in 2001 Census. This decline is not much larger only because of the intervening effects of Partition. Those effects have been almost completely wiped out by the continuing decline during the five decades since Partition.
The growth of Muslims and Christians has not been uniform over the whole of Indian Union. It has been concentrated in various pockets; this has led to the formation of several clusters within Indian Union, where the proportion of Hindus is getting sharply eroded. Is there a demographic strategy behind this? Infiltration, conversion and genocide contribute largely to this phenomenon. And these regions have become porous, harbouring divisive tendencies and terrorist blackmail.
In the extreme border areas—including Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Goa and Kerala in the west, Lakshwadweep and Nicobar Islands off the Indian coast, and the states of the northeast—Hindus do not have a dominating presence. They form only about a third of the population of Jammu and Kashmir. The valley has almost become entirely Muslim, because of the genocide, though Jammu and Ladakh have become more predominantly Hindu-Buddhist. In Goa, Hindus constitute about two-third of the population; of the rest about 30 per cent are Christians and 5 per cent Muslims.
Between 1951 and 2001, Muslim share in the population of India has increased to 13.4 per cent and the share of Christians has increased to 2.3 per cent. The increase in Muslim population has been geographically synchronised. This concentration had earlier led to the creation of two Islamic countries. Only a few countries of the world have had to undergo similar partitioning because of changing religious profile of the population. Growth of Christianity in India during the twentieth century has also been concentrated in specific geographical pockets, in some of which Christians now form a predominant majority.
This continuing erosion of the share of Hindus in specific pockets and regions, lying on the northern, eastern, northeastern and southwestern borders of India, is a matter of grave concern. True, Hindus have maintained a dominant presence in almost all of the northwestern, western, central and southern parts. These parts together comprise nearly two-third of the area and three-fifth of the population. In this vast region, Hindus have shown great vitality; any tendency towards significant erosion of their share in any pocket of this region has often been swiftly neutralised. Such vitality, however, has not helped them in defending their presence on the borders of the country where the efforts of the society, to be effective, necessarily need the vigilance and support of a state committed to protecting and preserving the civilizational identity.
For the economic progress, equitable distribution and national security, a rational population control is a precondition. The NDA government had piloted in parliament for enacting a population control policy. It had provisions for both incentives for birth control and impediments for those not adopting small family norm. The new census show that the efforts of the last few years have succeeded in creating an overall awareness but some specific groups try to encourage politics of demography for political power. Casteist politicians encourage minority communalism and even demographic transition as it happened in West Bengal and the north east with open obsessive patronage from the Congress and Communist parties. This has to stop.