‘WhatsApp University’ controlled by Hindu nationalists is perhaps the largest propaganda machinery ever in the world, enabling hate speech and incitement to violence on a scale never seen before.
In his traditional annual address, the head of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat, recently called on the Modi government to adopt a national population control policy and to implement the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) nation-wide.
The ‘unity’ message by the unelected ‘Supreme Leader’ of India seemed on the surface to be a genuine expression of concern about the future of India, whose population is projected to touch 1.7 billion by 2050 (Pew Research Center). However, his emphasis on “population imbalance” betrayed the century-old core ideology of the RSS, which is founded on the belief that adherents of Islam and Christianity are outsiders, who don’t truly belong in India.
The Genesis of a Myth
The ‘population imbalance’ claim by people like Bhagwat is based on one of the most dangerous myths propagated by Hindu nationalists that Hindus are well on their way to becoming a minority in India by about mid-century. Not surprisingly, they are obsessed with the fertility rate of Muslims and Christians and are violently opposed to religious conversions.
Any fear of Hindus being outnumbered in this century may seem farfetched, considering that Muslims and Christians constituted only 14.23% and 2.3% respectively of the total population in the 2011 census, and the growth rate of Muslims saw the sharpest decline in six decades (Census2011).
But inconvenient facts have never stopped Hindu nationalists from their dangerous fear-mongering, which they often dress up in a ‘scholarly’ facade. In this case, their scholarly source was a book and a monograph published in 2003 by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), Chennai, India, a Hindu nationalist think tank patronized by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Ostensibly based on census data, CPS had boldly predicted that Hindus would become a minority in India by 2061. To support their thesis, they had included this dramatic image showing a sharply dipping curve of Hindus and others (“Indian Religionists”) crossing a sharply rising curve of Muslims and Christian population (“Other Religionists”) in 2061.
Development economists and demographers were appalled at the CPS’ methodology and its prediction, which had apparently not been subjected to an independent peer review.
The Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) identified several serious problems with the work: 1. The grouping of India’s population as “Indian Co-religionists” vs. “Other Religionists” seemed to have no rationale other than to ‘other’ Muslims and Christians; 2. Data purported to be “in India” actually included Pakistan and Bangladesh, a clear choice of a title for the graph, designed to mislead; and 3. CPS had chosen to extrapolate the data in a way to secure the most ‘alarming’ projection of Muslim population (third degree polynomial), as opposed to a more evident linear projection, as adopted by other professional demographers such as the Pew Research Center (see below):
A quick visual comparison of the CPS’ graph with the above clearly demonstrates how CPS had manipulated the same data set to create the myth of imminent danger to the Hindu majority.
Notwithstanding the debunking of CPS’ thesis, census officials of India breathed new life into the myth just a few months later by reporting that there had been a huge jump in the Muslim growth rate between 1991 and 2001 (+3.14%).
When challenged, they admitted that the census department too had done the unthinkable: Falsely comparing data for 1991, which had excluded Muslim-majority Jammu & Kashmir, with data for 2001, which had included it! The resulting Muslim growth rate numbers were therefore highly skewed.
Census officials subsequently revised the numbers, which showed that the growth rate of Muslims had declined dramatically between 1991 and 2001 to – 3.53%. The rate declined again in the 2011 census to – 4.73% and is expected to further go down in the 2021 census.
Social Media in the service of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’
Unfortunately, despite revelations of fraudulent uses of census data, the ‘dooms day’ scenario for Hindus continues to be propagated to this day, especially in local languages, thanks to the wide reach of social media.
For example, a recent Facebook post by Hindu Ekta, an RSS-inspired group (see below), claimed that by year 2040 the ‘invasion of India’ will be completed, with Hindus reduced to just 11.2% of India. It further warned that if Hindus don’t unite now, they will be wiped out!
This was just one Facebook post from one of numerous well-organized Hindu nationalist groups, which rely heavily on social media to spread misinformation and hate on a daily basis. We are told that even the Prime Minister is a fan of some of the hate trolls.
The IT Cell of Modi’s ruling party, the BJP, takes the lead in orchestrating similar myths and in attacking opponents of Modi and the BJP. Party functionaries promote such platforms, which have been used to coordinate violent campaigns against the minorities, for example, in the Delhi riots in early 2020.
Unchallenged myths lead to mass violence
There is no question that the growth rate of Muslims in India has been consistently higher than Hindu growth rates in the last few decades. However, it is now also clear that the Muslim growth rates are declining faster than the growth rate of Hindus.
Those who ignore this shifting trend do so deliberately so they can keep the myth of mortal danger to a Hindu majority alive, as it serves their agenda of disenfranchising India’s minorities in pursuit of a ‘Hindu Rashtra.’
Critics of the original myth had warned us in 2004, “This book, we are afraid, is intellectually trivial…the book is intellectually trivial, and we are afraid. Why should one be afraid of the intellectually trivial? The answer resides in history: nonsense has never deterred the march of folly, least of all of the dangerous folly. The targeting, isolation, denigration, demeaning, and demonization of groups of people on the basis of their affiliation to religion or race has never been inspired by wisdom and sense, only by their antithesis.”
Seventeen years later we can see how prescient they were.
[The content has been provided by the Voices of Peace team in India. The views expressed are their own.]