I am keeping my fingers crossed. I am a Christian with two children. That qualifies me for sterilisation. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, calls it “family planning”, kinder words for sterilisation. My only hope of not going under the knife is if Sadhvi Deva Thakur, vice president of the Hindu Mahasabha, who recommends sterilisation of all Christians and Muslims with two children to keep their numbers in check, exempts octogenarians from the compulsory ordeal she has planned.
I have one more reason to claim exemption. As a consequence of leading the nation’s fight against separatists in Punjab in the Eighties, I was rendered incapable of propagation of the species after five young separatists shot at me in the Romanian capital city of Bucharest. This was in August 1991, a good 24 years ago. When the Sadhvi suggests to her supporters in the Shiv Sena that they move a private member’s bill in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, I entreat her to consider cases such as mine and provide for “exemptions” under the proposed law. I presume that for compulsory sterilisation, a law will have to be passed or an Emergency imposed, a la Mrs Gandhi.
The Sadhvi will have help from the Shiv Sena and BJP. Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP MP, has already advised every good Hindu to have a minimum of four children to keep pace with the Christian, and more importantly, the Muslim population growth.
This is one competition that could lead to unmitigated disaster. Hence the Sadhvi’s solution, which has been seconded by the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut in Saamna, sounds more practical. If the 80 per cent Hindu population is not to translate into 4,000 million bodies from the present 1,000 million then Christians and Muslims should keep their numbers steady at current figures so that there is no further erosion of the Hindu numerical superiority. How this should be effected is what is troubling the diehards.
Another possible, but hardly probable, strategy that Christians and Muslims could adopt in order to win the competition is to go on a conversion spree. They are both proselytising religions, but the methods adopted by the Turks or the Portuguese and Spaniards of the 15th and 16th centuries are now out of the question. Present-day Indian Christians and Muslims, whose forefathers were converted by the threat of arms, have neither the muscle nor the religious frenzy that those who converted them back then had.
They will therefore have to fall back on good works and good example to seduce unfortunate Hindus. But that can work only to a very minuscule degree. The numbers will just not add up. My Hindu brothers will still come out on top by a massive margin. In fact, Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s anxiety to introduce an anti-conversion bill in Parliament will, to my mind, prove a waste of time and not worth all the energy that the babus will have to spend on framing an act that will only distract the government from its core agenda of development.
Let us study the latest (2011) Census figures. The percentage of Christians in the total population has increased marginally, if at all, in the 10 years since 2001. It stood at 2.3 per cent in 2011. The comparative figures for Muslims is 14.2 per cent, a growth rate of 24 per cent against the national average of 18 per cent in a decade. The Hindu figures show a smaller increase in percentage terms and that has Sadhvi Deva and Sakshi Maharaj worried.
Population growth is heavily dependent on literacy, particularly female literacy, and also, importantly, on poverty levels. The illiterate and the impoverished breed much faster than the literate and the economically advanced. Take Kerala, where Christian and Muslim representation is substantial. There is no marked increase in percentage growth vis-à-vis the majority Hindus because of 100 per cent literacy in the state and comfortable per capita incomes derived from the foreign remittances of earning hands based in the Middle East.
This proves that religion has very little say in the size of a family when the partners are educated and financially sound.
This is how things are in the other three southern states as well. It is in the BIMARU states that population control has gone awry.
Illiteracy, combined with poverty, especially among the Muslim and SC communities, is the root cause of trouble. Added to this the penchant of many Hindu castes for killing the girl child in utero, which has skewed the gender ratio and paved the way for a new form of population control that was not envisaged till sex determination tests were invented.
China is facing a massive problem because of its policy of one-child families, which has prompted the large-scale elimination of the girl child in the womb. The first piece of advice that the Sadhvi and Sakshi Maharaj should give their Hindu brothers and sisters is to stop this insidious practice of gender selection. Without brides, men in Haryana and Punjab will not be able to procreate at all, leave alone producing four children.
The most urgent step the BJP-led government of Narendra Modi needs to take is educating girls, of all communities. Muslim and SC/ OBC girls need special attention in this regard. Poverty is most marked in these two segments of the population. Unless it is tackled, sterilisation, also known as “family planning”, of Christians and Muslims will not help.
The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab, and is a former Indian ambassador to Romania