The fertility rate among Muslims has seen the sharpest decline among all religious communities over the past two decades, compared to other religious communities, data from the National Family Health Survey-5, released last week, has showed.

The fertility rate is the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime.

The fertility rate among Muslims has dropped to 2.3 during the 2019 to 2021 period, from 2.6 recorded in 2015-16, the survey conducted by the Union health ministry showed. In 1992-93, Muslims had a fertility rate of 4.4.

Among Hindus, the fertility rate has dropped from 3.3 in 1992-93 to 1.94 in the latest survey. In the previous survey for 2015-16, fertility rate among Hindus was 2.1. The numbers show that the fertility rate has declined 46.5% among Muslims since 1992-93 and 41.2% in Hindus.

The fertility rate is 1.88 in Christians, 1.61 in Sikhs, 1.6 in Jains, and 1.39 in the Buddhist and Neo-Buddhist communities. The country’s total fertility rate has dipped to 2, according the survey, from 2.2 in 2015-16. The total fertility rate is currently below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Replacement rate is a crucial factor in the study of population growth. A replacement rate of less than 2.1 ensures the replacement of a woman and her partner upon death with no overall increase or decrease in the population.

Data from the survey showed that the fertility rate among Muslims is only 0.36 percentage points higher than that of Hindus. This proves wrong the narrative of Hindutva supremacists that Muslims produce more children as a deliberate plan to gain a majority, and capture political power in the country.

In 2015, had reported that according to trends of the 2015-16 survey, it would take 220 years for India’s Muslim population to equal Hindu numbers. Between 1951 and 2011, Hindu population increased from 30.04 crore to 96.6 crore, according to Pew Research Centre. In the same duration, the Muslim population increased from 3.5 crore to 17.2 crore.

Hindutva leaders’ propaganda on growing Muslim population

Hindutva supremacists in India have repeatedly made provocative statements asking Hindu women to procreate more.

At a religious congregation in Aligarh on May 1, Hindutva supremacist seers Yati Narsinghanand and Kalicharan, who are currently facing trial in cases of hate speech, had said that the country was facing a major threat due to the “growing population of Muslims”.

Narsinghanand had called upon Hindus to give birth to more children to stop India from becoming an Islamic country, saying there was a real possibility of the country being “swamped by Muslims by 2029”.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath in January 2020 had said that the Muslim population has increased since Partition because the country gave special rights to the community, unlike in Pakistan.

In 2015, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sakshi Maharaj had asked Hindu women to protect their religion by producing at least four children. Two years after, the MP blamed Muslims for a “population explosion” in the country.