A few years ago, someone sent me an article he had just written. By way of introduction, he called himself an “accomplished nuclear physicist”, and also an “expert on Islamic fundamentalism”. This was appropriate, because the article purported to be an analysis of the threat that Islamic fundamentalism posed to India. It was, instead a  comical mishmash of paranoia, lies and twisted statistics that any self-respecting editor should have torn up pronto.

But one sentence in this feverish screed, in particular, has stuck. The Muslim population in India, said the expert, had increased so fast and to such an extent that “non-Muslims now rarely venture into areas of India where Muslims are in large numbers, fearing unpredictable, irrational behaviour or violence directed at them”.
This is what qualifies, in some quarters, as analysis.

The nuclear physicist likely thinks he has new ammunition for his wayward gun: The Census Commissioner has just released population data by religion from the 2011 Census of India.

What will draw his attention ‒ and that of any number of other fear-mongers across this country ‒ are the growth figures for the different religious communities in the decade ending in 2011. In those ten years, the Hindu population increased by 16.8%, Muslim by 24.6%, Christian 15.5%, Sikh by 8.4%, Buddhist 6.1% and Jain 5.4%. This means that 79.8% of Indians are Hindu ‒ apparently the first time that fraction has dipped below 80% ‒  and 14.2% are Muslim, with the other faiths making up tiny slices of the population pie.

Fear-mongers will point fearfully at the Muslim figures and scream in panic:

Of course, this is what fear-mongers do. For the less fearful among us, here are just four numbers to chew on. Two are a repeat: between 2001 and 2011, Hindu and Muslim numbers increased by 16.8% and 24.6%, respectively. But what about the previous ten years ‒ between 1991 and 2001? In that decade, Hindu and Muslim numbers increased by 19.9% and 29.5%, respectively. (See my previous article on this subject here.)

Any way you look at those four numbers, two conclusions are inescapable: both growth rates are decreasing, and the Muslim growth rate declined faster than the Hindu growth rate.

In that previous article, I used the 1991-2001 numbers to deduce, via some elementary arithmetic, that at those growth rates, “it will be nearly 220 years before the Muslim population equals the Hindu population”. If we use the 2001-2011 numbers in the same way, we find that for the Muslim population to equal the Hindu population, we will have to wait nearly 270 years. Stack 220 up against 270 to know that, again, the Muslim growth rate is declining faster than the Hindu growth rate. And if population parity itself frightens you, at least consider that the mongers are talking of something that might happen in (drumroll, please) … 2285 AD.

And in fact it won’t happen. For if we do maintain these 2001-2011 growth rates ‒ again repeating calculations from that previous article ‒ in 2285 AD we’ll have nearly 64 billion Hindus and 64 billion Muslims in this country. Or actually we won’t: we’ll have long crowded ourselves to death by then. That’s the only way we will manage any “EXTINCTION”.
So here’s the only sensible deduction to make from the Census figures: population growth rates will slow across the board, leading eventually to a stable population and then to a decline in numbers.

Even the accomplished nuclear physicist should be able to understand that. Except, he prefers fear-mongering.