(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
“Demography is a drama in slow motion” is a succinct reality. Globalization gave impetus to unprecedented wave of migrations, both legal and illegal, threatening social, political and economic equilibrium.
The real strategic challenge confronting mankind today is, therefore, “Demographic Transitions” to include population explosion, migrations (legal and illegal) and identity crises. Unless global leadership collectively addresses the issue, none can resolve crises proliferations and escalations.
Empirical studies based on growth rates, per se, cannot provide deep insights or reveal sharp variances across regions (and sometimes within countries like India from state to state and even within districts). Population growth is not as simple as watching the total number of humans rise each year and predicting trends. Ipso facto, demographic changes are a function of number of variables or elements. Its long term implications are likely to be awesome.
Irrefutably, Islam, young religion with claims of par excellence, is the fastest-growing major religion. Due to highest fertility rate, its surge is unstoppable. It is expected to decline only to just above the global replacement rate (2.1 per woman) beyond 2050.
According to projections by the Pew Research Center, by 2050, the number of Muslims (280 crores, or 30 percent of the world’s population) and Christians (290 crores, or 31 percent) will for the first time be at near parity.
Muslim surge fallout is simple. Challenge Islam will Christianity for pre-eminence on the global plane and the Hinduism in South Asia. The spread of right-wing religious fundamentalism will naturally polarize mankind on narrow sectarian lines.
To compound, loss of jobs due to hi-technology advancements, climate change, rapidly declining natural resources, food and water scarcity and other key variables of human sustenance will be real. Social, economic and political inequities will be endemic.
Hawkish nature of mankind is a grim reality. Naturally, there will fierce competition and rivalry. Goes without saying that the “fittest” can only survive; and the weak are bound to perish.
No wonder, Donald Trump is attempting to impose ban on entry of people of 7 Islamic nations and also plans to build a wall to stop illegal immigrants entering America from Mexico. Furthermore, he is also attempting to halve the H1-B quota limiting entry only high-tech individuals to maintain technology edge. After all, migrations, both illegal and legal, can alter internal dynamics in all fields in host nations at their own peril.
Let me recount the data of growth of global population: CE 1 – 20 croresmn;1500 AD – 45.8 crores; 1800 AD – 100 crores; 1900 AD -165 crores; 1950 AD – 252.5 crores; 2000 AD – 612.7 crores; and in 2015 AD – 734.9 crores. The UN estimates it will further increase to 1120 crores in the year 2100.
In 2015, region-wise data of population includes: Asia with 438.5 crores (59.9% of global population) followed by Africa with 116.6 crores (15.9%), Europe with 74.3 crores (10.1%); Latin America and Caribbean with 63 crores (8.6%); North America with 36.1 crores (4.9%); and Oceania with 3.9 crores (0.5%).
Experts have predicted demographic trends of 21st century – 970 crores by 2050, up from 730 crores in 2015. India’s population surge is predicted to be around 185 crores by 2050. If 5% unadjusted or unaccounted population figure is added India may have around 200 crores population by 2050.
Importantly, growth rates vary sharply by nations, regions and continents. Africa will see its population double, while Asia (South Asia an exception), North America, South America, and the Caribbean will grow by less than 25 percent. And Europe’s population is expected to contract by 4 percent.
The Christian populations in France and the UK are projected to drop below half by 2050. Besides decline in growth rates, Christianity is expected to slow in part due to followers leaving the faith – decline from around three-quarters in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050.
In comparison, throughout Europe, the Muslim population is expected to rise slightly (to 10.2 percent from today’s 5.9 percent). These projections are dependent on migration patterns that could be affected by geopolitical developments.
As per forecasts, Muslim population with no new migration would be 8.4% of population in Europe; but with migration, it would increase to 10.2%. Similarly, without migration, Muslim population in North America will be 1.4%; but with migration it would increase to 2.4%.
Next, the case of demographic in Africa is quite exciting. In 1950, there were nearly twice as many Europeans as Africans. However, by 2050, there will be around 3.5 times more Africans (250 crores) than Europeans (70.7 crores).
Why South Asia is an exception? The demographic surge in the three key nations of South Asia by 2050 includes: India – 185 crores; Pakistan – over 30 crores; and Bangladesh – 26 crores. That is, a total of nearly 240 crores out of projected global population of 970 crores. What does it imply? One in every four in the world will belong to South Asian origin by 2050.
Yet another startling feature would be India having over 30 crores Muslim population by 2050. And, the total Muslim population of the three nations would be over 86 crores out of around 280 crores globally. That is, double the population of North America in 2015.
Let me review in outline demographic changes in India after 1947 particularly Muslim population surge, which some view with grave concern not only for India but also internationally.
India’s population growth data roughly includes: 36 crores 1951; 43.9 crores in 1961; 54.8 crores in 1971; 68.3 crores in 1981; 84.6 crores in 1991; 102.8 crores in 2001; 121 crores in 2011; and 134 crores in 2016.
The growth rates by religion includes: Hinduism from 84% in 1951 down to 79.80% in 2011; Islam increase from 9.80% in 1951 to 14.23% in 2011; Christianity static at 2.30% from 1951; and Sikhism declining from 1.79% in 1951 to 1.72% in 2011.
As per empirical studies, some experts believe that the Hindu majority falling below the 80% mark should not be viewed as a cause for concern. By using different growth rates, they show that Indian Muslims becoming the largest community is quite far-fetched. The Hindu growth rate is 1.55% annually, while Muslims’ is 2.2%. If the decline in growth rates persists (both continue to grow at slower rates), both Hindu and Muslim populations will hit a peak in 2061.
Then, Muslims will number 29.24 crores and Hindus 140.25 crores. India’s overall population at the time would be 173.03 crores with the Muslim proportion at 16.89%. Hindus will actually account for 81.06% at that time. None should rule out the possibility of India’s population reaching 200 crores by 2050, if the current slow decline in growth rate continues.
In contrast, population growth in Pakistan is from 3.7 crores in 1951 to 17.3 crores in 2011. Hindus as a percentage of population declined from 25% in 1947 to 12.9% in 1951 due to population exodus during partition. As per 1951 census, West Pakistan had 1.6% Hindu population, while East Pakistan (modern Bangladesh) had 22.05%.
By 1997, the percentage of Hindus remained stable at 1.6% in Pakistan – Hindu (jati) numbering 2,111,271 while the Hindu (scheduled castes) numbered an additional 332,343. They are mostly concentrated in Sindh.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan data, just around 1,000 Hindu families fled to India in 2013. In May 2014, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, revealed in the National Assembly of Pakistan that around 5,000 Hindus are migrating from Pakistan to India every year.
In Bangladesh, Hindu population has dropped to 10.2%, which is due to exodus to India triggered by Pakistan military crackdown in 1971.
The real concern is the Muslim growth rate continues to be 24.64%. According to data from Census of India, Muslim population is estimated to be 18.4 crores in 2016 (out of 134 crores). The acerbic leader Asaduddin Owaisi claims higher number of Muslims over 18% today, that is, around 23 crores as on date.
Yet another significant issue is the validity of findings of empirical studies. And, their extrapolations are usually carried out in isolation on All-India basis. They do not address intra regional variations within States particularly those having with borders with neighboring nations and their implications on national security. Already Muslim politics of appeasement and polarization run riot in 4 states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Bihar what with over 55% of Muslims residing in them. Even Kerala should be added.
The growth data of Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam is certainly a matter of national security concern. In West Bengal, Muslims constituted 19.85% in 1951; and 27.01% (2.45 crores in real numbers out of total 9.12 crores) in 2011.
The highest concentrations of Muslims are in three districts bordering Bangladesh: Murshidabad – 66.28%; Malda – 51.27%; and Uttar Dinajpur – 50.92%. Following behind them are Birbhum with 37.06%, South 24 Parganas with 35.57% and North 24 Parganas with 25.72% and Koch Bihar with 25.54.
Next, according to 2011 Census, Islam is the fastest growing religion in Assam. In 1951, Muslims accounted 0.199 crores constituting 17.62%. As per 2011 census, Muslims accounted 1.068 crores out of total population of 3.12 crores constituting 34.22%of its population.
9 out of 27 districts particularly bordering Bangladesh, have significant Muslim majority population (Over 50%): Dhubri – 79.67%; Barpeta – 70.74%; Darrang – 64.34%; Hailakandi – 60.31%; Goalpara – 57.52%; Karimganj – 56.36%; Nagaon – 55.36%; Morigaon – 52.56%; and Bongaigaon – 50.22%. Three districts have over 30% Muslim population to include: Cachar – 37.71%; Kamrup – 39.66%; and Nalbari – 35.96%. Kokrajhar district also closely follows one-third Muslim population.
Even in Kerala, the Muslim surge is real – from 0.78 crores in 2001 to 0.88 crores in 2011. Whereas, the Hindu population has declined from 1.82 crores in 2001 to 1.78 crores in 2011.
And, Muslims are in significant numbers to influence outcome of elections in districts to include: Mallapuram – 70.24%; Kozhikode – 39.24%; Kasargod – 37.24%; Kannur – 29.43%; Palakkad – 28.93%; and Waynad – 28.65%.
Political parties and their leaders have been playing “Vote Bank” politics – appeasing and polarizing the Muslims. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, cannot but help championing the Muslim cause lest she and her party are thrown out in elections.
Viewed in the above growth estimates of population globally and in the South Asian context and content, religious fundamentalism is bound to engulf societies world over between “We” and “They” on religious lines unless there is a ‘sea change’ in the behavior patterns of different religious communities. Judging by the past mankind’s record, it is unlikely that they would respect each other religious faiths in an atmosphere of “Tolerance”.
In sum, the prospects of inter and intra religious crises and conflicts proliferation and escalation is, therefore, a distinct prospect globally and in the South Asian region. Collective visionary leadership at all levels to address the global, regional and national strategic challenge is dire need; but yet to be sighted on the horizon.