By Udayan Namboodiri
The CPI(M) and CPI, which offer joint leadership to the Indian Left, have in recent days adopted certain very curious positions on politico-socio-economic questions. The Indian Left is notorious for clinging on to precepts and practices which the country has shunned a long time back. This mindset is owed to two factors. Firstly, the Indian Left has always been led by men drawn from the bourgeoise background, the Western-educated class, which has never been free of the very germ of Right reaction which they accuse their opponents of carrying. Secondly, their consciousness on most issues is shaped by blind aping of a discarded Western model.
This was manifested in recent times by the attitude of the West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, and his high-profile wife, Mira, on the death penalty. While Leftists all over the world condemn the use of capital punishment, the Indian Left supports it even though it simultaneously criticises the country'sjudicial process as one heavily weighted against the poor. At other levels, the global Left advocates animal rights, environment protection and gender equity.
Now contrast that with the CPI(M)'spatronage to cow slaughter, indiscriminate coal mining in the Raniganj-Asansol belt and the two-child norm which, respectively, bear out the contention that the Indian Left, at least collectively, is one of the most retrogressive forces on this planet.
It is this last named virtue which has recently burst into the public domain, thanks to a special resolution passed at the CPI(M)'s18th party congress. The national media could not give much space to this uniquely anti-national position of Indian communists, either for lack of space or out of a conscious desire to ?protect? the image of the Left. If, on the other hand, an RSS or BJP leader even stated in an individual capacity that he was in favour of Indians producing more and more children, condemning the womenfolk to a lifetime of physical and emotional misery, the ?independent? press would have come down on the Sangh Parivar like a ton of bricks. While this is a familiar game by now, let us explore the motive behind the CPI(M)'sdecision to stick out like a sore thumb in a country which is witnessing a virtual population explosion and where nobody in his right frame of mind ever contradicts the national consciousness in favour of the two-child norm.
While Leftists all over the world condemn the use of capital punishment, the Indian Left supports it even though it simultaneously criticises the country'sjudicial process.
First of all, the fact that this preposterous resolution could even be introduced suggests the speed with which Brinda Karat has acquired influence in the CPI(M) apparatchik. Even before her elevation to the party'shighest decision-making forum, the Politburo, the wife of general secretary-designate Prakash Karat was managing to throw her weight about. For, this downright anti-gender (apart from anti-national) issue had formed part of the pitch of the All India Democratic Women'sAssociation (AIDWA), a frontal organisation of the CPI(M), for quite some time. But the AIDWA'sconvoluted logic had not been accepted by the CPI(M) as such. Here is how AIDWA'shead, Sudha Sundararaman recently explained her organisation'sstand:
?AIDWA is critical of coercive measures to control population, including the two-child norm. India is a signatory to the Cairo Declaration, which recognises that high fertility rates are a consequence of underdevelopment and not its cause. Experience has shown that short cuts through disincentives or incentives do not work. It is ultimately a combination of better education, employment, health status and women'srights, along with availability of safe contraception, that lead to lower birth rates. The two-child norm targets women and marginalises the poor, Dalit and tribal women. Society is already male-dominated. We want to counter the falling sex ratio, its link with consumerism, dowry, promotion of rituals and practices that devalue women and promote preference for male children. Alongside, health care has to be strengthened.?
Superficially viewed, this is just another instance of the CPI(M)'sostrich-like policy on the population problem. Ignoring the problems of the moment, the party is willing to wait endlessly till the arrival of that glorious day when all its citizens are, in the very least, college graduates with well-paying jobs and blessed with the virtues (provided they don'tturn Leftist ) of patriotic duty and national outlook when they automatically realise the necessity of stopping child production at two. But the deeper reason is not so silly. It is born out of a pernicious design to appease the Muslim vote-bank. The party knows that it is nothing without the Muslims. Their continued stay in power in West Bengal and Tripura, and hopes of a comeback in Kerala, depend on how effectively they can polarise the society along Hindu-Muslim lines. Aware of the Shariat'sstricture against family planning and contraception, the CPI(M) is keen to exploit the Muslim population'seagerness to maintain its present high growth rate and eventually attain a position from where it can dominate the trends of Indian democratic politics.
The Muslim population of India grew by 29.3 per cent during 1991-2001, compared to 32.9 per cent during 1981-91. Many demographers have opined that if the current trend continues, the population of Muslims in India would equal that of the Hindus by 2051. Hindus as a proportion of India'spopulation have decreased by 2.9 per cent in the last four decades, from around 83 per cent to over 80 per cent. Conversely, the Muslim population has risen by 2.7 per cent to stand at 13.4 per cent. The remaining communities, namely the Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and others, have more or less remained constant. Everybody (including the apologists for the Mullahs) knows the real reason for this. The vast majority of India'sMuslims are steeped in the obscurantism of the Shariat which bars them from family planning. Simultaneously, there is a virtual chappati telegraph ( that invisible but real communication line linking Muslim ghettos to power centres beyond India'sborders ) which constantly warns the Indian Muslim to ?multiply or perish?. In West Bengal, Muslims already make up a full quarter according to the findings of the 2001 Census. In the border-belt districts of Uttar and Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Birbhum and Murshidabad, the Muslim population grew from 39.89 per cent in 1951 to 52.50 per cent in 2001. In 1951, only Murshidabad was a Muslim-majority district. Today, Malda has joined the list and by 2011, Uttar Dinajpur too may become Muslim majority. Indeed, the percentage of Muslims in West Bengal has grown steadily from 19.46 per cent in 1951 to 25.20 per cent in 2001. Between 1991 and 2001, the Hindu population of West Bengal grew by 14.18 per cent while the Muslim growth was 25.91 per cent.
Aware of the Shariat'sstricture against family planning and contraception, the CPI(M) is keen to exploit the Muslim population'seagerness to maintain its present high growth rate and eventually attain a position from where it can dominate the trends of Indian democratic politics.
So, there is a method behind the madness. The CPI(M) stands to gain immensely from the exponential growth of the Muslim electorate. Indeed, the delimitation of constituencies will ensure that the number of seats in the Muslim-dominated districts will grow at the cost of those in the Hindu-majority areas.
The communist revolution is, literally, ?growing? in India. In the wombs of its Muslim women.
(The author is senior editor, The Pioneer.)