ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Saffron Demography

Beginning as early as 1909 when the book Hindus: A Dying Race helped Hindu communalists knit antagonistic castes together by creating anxiety about Muslims, saffron demography has sought to whip up fears of a very high rate of Muslim population growth. That this kind of "demography" suffers from serious methodological, philosophical and empirical problems does not deter its practitioners from declaring a "demographic war" and enjoining Hindus not to go in for planned parenthood.

I recently sent a paper that explores how neo-Malthusian population discourses and neoliberal policies contribute to discourses of identity and fundamentalisms, and indeed to murderous attacks on minorities – as happened in Gujarat in 2002 – to the International Journal of Health Services. I had not realised, naively as it appears, how far the so-called Hindu discourses had reached. To my astonishment, the referee to my paper wrote:

The reference to Hindu communalism is misplaced …the use of the terms “fascism” and “genocide” in the context of Gujarat shows inadequate understanding of use of these very serious terms and lack of evenhandedness in dealing with the Hindu-Muslim problem of India. If the author must raise such peripheral issues, the author could have referred to massive ethnic cleansing and abduction and conversion of Hindu women during the time. At least the author should have explained how in many free and fair elections in Gujarat, the Muslims had voted in large numbers for the ‘Hindu religious party’. To be even-handed while dealing with such a sensitive issue, the author should have mentioned how within the last few years many times more innocent Hindus were massacred in Jammu and Kashmir and in many parts of the country, including the serial bombings in Mumbai and reckless attacks on worshippers in some of the most sacred temples of Hindus. Instead of getting into very questionable arguments concerning alleged Hindu ‘fascism’ and ‘genocide’, the author ought to have referred to a careful regression analysis of the 2001 Census data by one of our most outstanding demo graphers, which conclusively proved that the rate (of) population growth among the Muslims in India is significantly higher than those of the Hindus and Catholic majority Indian Christians.1

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