It is time to understand that during the twentieth century, demographic changes have played a major role in overturning the civilisational destinies of a number of countries. Unfortunately, a section of our English media has lately developed a tendency to view even major events occurring in the country in abject isolation from the worldview, by disregarding the global trends and developments. This attitude is in sharp contrast to the rational and holistic approach of their distinguished peers of the previous generation. The latter were decidedly better informed about international developments and more wide awake. How can any political analyst forget that during the twentieth century certain very major demographic changes have taken place around the globe?
Some of these changes were responsible for widespread religion-based civilisational conflicts leading to large-scale killings, destruction of property, uprooting of millions of people and unspeakable crimes against innocent masses. It is difficult to comprehend how soon and why most of our political analysts and strategic thinkers have forgotten the tragic civil war of Lebanon in the Middle East, and the gory strife in Bosnia and Kosovo in the Balkans, which were solely occasioned by the fast-paced demographic changes in which the Muslims rapidly outpaced the Christians? At least in these three instances the demographic change had a kind of terminator effect on the pluralistic civilisational moorings of these Christian territories. For instance, due to adverse demographics the Maronite Christians, who constituted an overwhelming majority in Lebanon’s population, were reduced to a minority within a few decades. By 1932, the Christian majority went down to a mere 55 per cent, while the proportion of Muslims rose to 45 per cent. The results of the 1932 Census gave a big boost to the long-standing hostility between the two communities. Soon the Muslims started clamouring for a greater say in the affairs of the country in view of their growing numbers. Ultimately, according to an agreement reached in 1943 between the Maronite Christians and the Muslims, known as the National Pact of Lebanon, the two hostile communities decided to share power in proportion to their ratio in the country’s population. The posts of top ministers in the government were apportioned between the Christians and the Muslims in the ratio of six to five respectively, based on the 1932 Census. The Lebanese Christians were better educated and more enlightened than their Muslim counterparts whose lives were dominated and controlled, as usual, by mullahs and religious scholars. Needless to mention that the population of Muslims continued to gallop faster than that of the Christians because the latter believed in limiting the size of their families, while the Muslims opposed the small family norm in deference of the diktats of their clerics and religious preachers. Subsequent demographic analyses revealed that non-acceptance of the small family norm by Muslims had resulted in a huge difference in the fertility rates of Christians and Muslims. By 1970 the Maronite Christians had landed themselves in a declining fertility rate of four children per woman, while the Muslims maintained a steady fertility rate of six children per woman. The result was that by 1974-75, Lebanon became a Muslim majority country amidst a raging civil war and resounding battle cries of Jehad. In the bloodbath and mayhem that ensued as a result of Jehad waged by Muslim militias, buoyed by their growing numbers, nearly 5 million Maronite Christians migrated out of Lebanon within two years, mostly to Europe and America. For more than 15 years the Lebanese nation had been ravaged by bloody civil war. Even the intervention of the USA and belated attempts of Israel to provide succour to the beleaguered Christians could not save the latter from large-scale annihilation and ethnic cleansing. Luckily most of the Christians were well educated and enterprising and had many Christian lands to migrate to for shelter. Among those left behind, some converted to Islam, while others managed to survive by taking recourse to segregated living in fortified pockets, in urban habitats by banding together and taking up arms. By now the percentage of Christians in Lebanon is believed to have come down to 25 per cent or less and they have practically no say in the governance of that country. The trend of well-to-do Maronite Christians migrating out of Lebanon continues till date, more or less in a manner similar to the migration of Hindus from Bangladesh.
Events of Bosnia tell the same story. In 1961 the Serb Christians constituted 43 per cent of the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, while Muslims were only 26 per cent. But there was a noticeable difference in the fertility rates of the two communities which became the catalyst for civilisational transformation. By 1991, amidst growing mutual hostility and blood-curdling civil strife, the tables were turned on the Serbs and they were reduced to 31 per cent while the Muslims increased to 44 per cent, primarily due to the higher fertility rate of the latter. During the same period, the Croats went down from 22 to 17 per cent. (Source: Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilisations and The Remaking of World Order). Even today throughout Balkans, the Albanian, Kosovar and Bosnian Muslims are the sole community growing rapidly in percentage terms-just like the Muslims in India. A similar fate befell the Christian Serbs of Kosovo which they have always regarded as their Jerusalem, though a better comparison would be to call it the Haldighati of Serbs who lost to the Ottoman Turks in a fierce bloody battle in 1389, the saga of which is echoed in numerous ballads and ditties sung throughout rural Serbia even now. Due to rapid demographic changes by 1961, the proportion of Serbs in Kosovo had come down to 24 per cent while Albanian Muslims became 67 per cent-the Albanian birth rate has been the highest in Europe for more than five decades. In 1991, Kosovo was transformed into 90 per cent Muslim and 10 per cent Christian Serbs. The latest figures are Kosovo has 98 per cent Muslims and 2 per cent Christians.
A similar demographic scenario is unfolding in Macedonia, the famed land of Alexander the Great, where the Christians were in an overwhelming majority of 90.60 per cent in the year 1900, while the percentage of Muslims was barely 8.39. By 1970 the Christian proportion fell to 73.79 and Muslims rose to 11.35 and since then the growth of Muslims has not looked back. Presently the Muslims constitute almost one-third of the country’s population. Macedonians had a difficult time in the year 2001 when a Muslim militia led by Albanian Jehadis spearheaded a violent campaign threatening to push the country towards civil strife. Since then the Muslims have been trying to wrest more powers for several municipal councils in which they have acquired the majority, or near-majority status.
Recently in the last week of July 2004, more than 20,000 Macedonian Christian demonstrators trooped into the capital, Skopje, to protest against the government’s plan to give the Muslims (read Albanians) more control over the municipal councils in which they have now become the majority community. While the government maintains that the proposed delegation of more autonomy to the Muslim-dominated municipalities was crucial for maintaining peace in Macedonia, the critics argue that the plan will create “ethnic enclaves” in the country, thereby threatening unity of the nation. The balance of power between the Macedonians and Muslim Albanians is an ongoing problem and it took the country to the brink of civil war in 2001. (Source: The Week, July 31, 2004, p.5). To cut the long story short, the Christian numbers are declining all over the Balkans. And by now for all practical purposes, the fate of the Orthodox Christian civilisation in the Balkans appears to have been sealed.
Historically, demographic changes have invariably led to escalation of religious and socio-economic tensions and consequential struggle for supremacy between the interacting communities, not only in the affected country, but far beyond its borders into far-away regions and continents. This broad principle tends to apply with greater validity where the demographically gaining community happens to be Muslims. It is common knowledge and worldwide experience that any increase in Muslim population of any country or region, invariably leads to a clamour for secession and culminates in a violent struggle for division of the parent country. That has been the unfortunate history of India, Cyprus, Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, the Philippines and many other countries.
The foregoing narrative of the fate of three Christian territories swiftly losing their secular and pluralistic character, under the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism, should silence all those who relentlessly preach and propagate that demographic changes cannot terminate the dominant religious and civilisational moorings of a nation. The latest developments in Macedonia further underline the tremendous importance of demographics for secular nation-states. Those who say that whatever has happened in the Balkans and Lebanon cannot happen in India are either ignoramuses or just trying to bluff the gullible Indian masses. The same process of fast-paced demographic change, comparable to the Balkans, is writ large all over Assam, West Bengal and certain crucial districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. If demographic change could destroy the civilisational ethos of Lebanon and the Balkans, and nearer home now threatens to destroy the culture and civilisation of Assamese people, what makes the protagonists of minority vote-bank believe that the vast demographic changes taking place across India will pose no threat to the integrity, unity and diversity of the Indian nation in the near future? Growing numbers of human beings invariably tend to seek extra living space, require more jobs, more food and above all try to pitch in for securing more say in the affairs of the country. Their political and economic ambitions grow as their population swells.