"If we aren't cautious, soon Hindus will be outnumbered in India (by Muslims)," the President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Pravin Togadia, said in Mumbai on December 14.
The prospect of being overtaken by Muslims is a familiar refrain from the Hindu right-wing. The VHP's ghar vapasi (returning home) movement has triggered a nationwide debate on conversions and re-conversions.
The government has added to the ferment by releasing almost all data based on Census 2011, except the data on population based on religion.
FactChecker reviewed available data and ran some projections to conclude that while the proportion of Muslims is likely to rise, there is little to no chance of India having more Muslims than Hindus.
At the heart of the Hindu right-wing's fears is the 2010 Indian Institute of Population Studies report, which said: “The proportion of Hindus has declined from 83.5% of the total population in 1961 to 80.5% by the year 2001, thus showing a decline of 3 percent. On the contrary, the proportion of Muslims has increased from 10.7% in 1961 to 13.4% in 2001, showing an increase of 2.7 percent during this period.”
Source: IIPS India
Source: IIPS India
A Pew Research report said the population of Muslims in India is expected to move up to 236.18 million by 2030 from 177.28 million in 2010.
According to a Planning Commission report, the projected population for the years till 2050 is expected as follows:
Source: Planning commission
So, if we assume that the Muslim population would be 16% of the total population in 2050, it would be 260.47 million – an increase of 122.27 million from 2001.
The IIPS study quoted a 2006 Prime Minister's High Level Committee report as saying "that though Muslim population has increased in India from 47 million in 1961 to 138 million in 2001, it has risen by less than one percent a decade during the above four decades".
The report said: "Further, the growth rate of Muslims during 1991-2001 seemed to be declining in many states of India. As a consequence of a continuous decline in fertility and also with an improvement in the mortality conditions over the decades, the population growth of Muslims in India has slowed down. As a result, Muslims are also well into the demographic transition. The role of migration in the overall growth of the Muslim population in India is observed to be very small."
To the question, could Muslims become the largest group in India, the report noted, "One could say that the Muslim population share is expected to rise from the current level but not expected to be much above 20 percent by the end of the century."
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