5. Hindu response to the demographic challenge
5.1. Some panicky solutions
This leaves enough time to do something, assuming that “doing something” is in principle possible and desirable. So, what are the options? It hardly makes sense to react to this demographic aggression with a Hindu demographic counter-offensive, as suggested by the Puri Shankaracharya, if at all it were possible to surpass the Muslim community in this respect.1 A similar idea is that birth control should be made compulsory for all, e.g. by enforcing vasectomy on every father of two children.2
A sinister alternative routinely imputed to the RSS is the expulsion of all Indian Muslims to Pakistan, “the state which was, after all, created for them”. This kind of statement can be heard in speeches by the more extreme wing of the Hindutva organization, e.g. in the popular audio-taped speeches by Sadhvi Ritambhara propagating this position, including the slogan: “Mussalman ke do hi sthan, Pakistan ya qabrastan”, “There are only two places for Muslims, Pakistan or the graveyard”.
This slogan apparently dates back to the Partition and its massacres, as related to me by eyewitnesses.3 At that time, the evacuation of Muslims from India was, coupled with an ordered evacuation of Hindus from Pakistan, an entirely serious proposal: all Hindus would vacate Pakistan, and all Muslims would go to Pakistan, leaving only their buried ancestors behind in graveyards in India. The proposal was formulated by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in his Thoughts on Pakistan (1940), and meant to save millions of lives (including those yet to be lost in future clashes resulting from Hindu-Muslim co-existence in the respective countries of the subcontinent, esp. India). Today, however, it could only be done by means of extreme violence, comparable in intensity to (but a hundred times larger than) the full-scale civil war which led to the expulsion of the French inhabitants of Algeria in 1962.
A few years ago, Anwar Shaikh, a convert from Islam, offered a political solution (which he later retracted): “There is only one solution to this horrendous problem, that is, disenfranchise all Muslims of India. A vote is the right of a patriotic citizen who thinks good of his country and acts accordingly. These people lost their Indian citizenship by dividing their own motherland to create Pakistan.”4 Apart from the questionable desirability of such a disenfranchisement, it is obviously a recipe for civil war, for how long would an ever-larger Muslim community tolerate it?
Perhaps Baljit Rai is thinking along the same lines when he offers the undefined concept Hindu Rashtra as a solution: “Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists and others (Muslims excluded) living in India have no option but to live either in a Hindu Rashtra or Muslim India, i.e. India as Dar-ul-Islam. That is the stark reality.”5 Unfortunately, he fails to explicitate how the declaration of India as a Hindu state would stop the Muslim increase leading to a Muslim majority. Nepal is formally a Hindu Kingdom, yet it fails completely to put up any kind of effective defence against Islamic immigration and Christian proselytization, which are fast destroying the Hindu character of the country.
Some desperate Hindus have advocated the reintroduction of polygamy, e.g. one Ashok Vashisht in Britain pleads for adoption of polygamy to counter the effects of Muslim polygamy.6 His argument is that Muslim polygamy, even if it does not yield a higher birth rate by itself, is nevertheless a decisive trump card in the Muslim demographic offensive, because it limits the availability of women for other Muslim men and thereby forces them to scout around for non-Muslim women. There is something demeaning about this kind of competition, and it overestimates the demographic use of polygamy vastly (polygamous households are rather few and tend to have a lower number of children per woman). But its main conceptual weakness, as also of the other options mentioned, is that it is predicated on the acceptance of the continued Islamic identity of the Muslims.
Within the above schemes, the choice seems to be one of simply letting the Muslims take over India as soon as they become numerous enough; or implementing one of the said scenarios of demographic competition or ethnic cleansing. One cannot blame anti-Hindu authors for highlighting such ideas as all too similar to certain forms of xenophobia and racism elsewhere. But rather than shrieking about the horrible plans being concocted in Hindutva backrooms, we should take a look at an established Hindu alternative for these extreme “solutions”.
The alternative we mean is not to just shrug it all off and say: but why should anyone object if Muslims become the majority? That is a valid option in theory, but one which is unacceptable to every single Hindu worth his salt. After the treatment which Hindus have received in Muslim-majority states and regions, from legal discrimination in Malaysia to ethnic cleansing in Kashmir and genocide in East Pakistan, aborting any evolution which would turn India into a Muslim-majority state is an agreed policy goal.
The other alternative, the one advocated by a string of activists from Dayananda Saraswati to Abhas Chatterjee, is that Hindus challenge the Muslims’ adherence to Islam. In Chatterjee’s words: “We consider these alien ideologies to be enemies of our nation. The goal is to bring our minorities back into our nation after destroying the deadly intoxication of these ideologies.”7 This was also the solution offered by Swami Shraddhananda to “save the dying race”.
This reconversion may take the form of reawakening some peripheral, superficially islamized communities to their pre-conversion Hindu identity, an approach which has worked in the case of the reconverted Malkana and Meherat Rajputs. But today these semi-Hindu Muslim communities are becoming scarce due to Tabligh campaigns and the spread of Madrassa education, making the Muslims more Muslim. In the larger picture, even the successes which have been achieved by the reconversion movement may not amount to much, for there have also been conversions of Hindus to Islam.
This leads to considerations of a second approach: educating Muslims about the less than divine basis of Islam to shake well-grounded believers in Islam out of their beliefs. The whole idea strikes modern Hindus as quite foreign to Hinduism, which has come to be seen as an entirely spineless jellyfish, tolerating everything, approving everything. In reality, Hinduism has quite a tradition of debate, including wagers in which the loser agrees to convert to the winner’s school of thought; an unusually energetic Hindu may try to revive this tradition.
This polemical approach is much more difficult, not least because it necessitates a profound reformulation of Hinduism in modern terms and the shedding of a lot of superstitious deadwood which Hinduism has accumulated over the centuries. Hindu society is not in a shape to teach others lessons and tell them what is wrong with them; or so Hindus feel. That is exactly how Swami Dayananda understood the situation when he conceived the _ Shuddhi_ programme together with a reform of Hinduism: reconversion of Muslims is only possible if it is combined with thorough internal reform, both in the social and the intellectual domains.
Demanding as the project of reconversion may be, it is the only civilized solution to the looming threat of a Muslim demographic take-over of India a few decades from now. Of course, Hindus may be lucky and wake up one day to find that Islam has imploded from within, that the Ayatollahs and the Ulema of Al-Azhar and Deoband are suddenly telling their flock that the whole thing was a mistake. The Hindus were that lucky in the case of Communism, which surprised them with its implosion, so it is really possible; nonetheless, luck rarely comes to those who count and depend on it for their survival. Time has not run out yet, and if Hindus make a start today, they can comfortably organize the salvation of their country from the rising tide of Islam.
5.3. A secular afterthought
To a modernist outsider, there is something quaint and unreal about this alternative: either islamizing or hinduizing India. Perhaps this is nave Enlightenment optimism, but I wonder if the present worldwide revival of religious identities can at all persist once the information revolution has had its full civilizational effect. As late as the 1960s, Protestants in the Netherlands used to warn each other against the Catholics, who were allegedly planning to take over the country with their high birth rate.8 The suspicious Protestants were right, for today, Catholics are very slightly more numerous than Protestants in the Netherlands, a state created by a Protestant freedom struggle; only, the two communities together hardly command the loyalty of half the population anymore, for both have lost their adherents at a dramatic rate. Moreover, with the mental secularization of even the remaining Catholics, the idea of a Popish Plot to seize power has become surrealistic.
Like the Dutch Catholics, Indian Muslims should be encouraged to outgrow their religious conditioning, and to explore the spiritual sphere afresh. This will automatically bring them in closer touch with their Hindu surroundings, and help them reintegrate into the society from which they were estranged by Islam.
The Shankaracharya was quoted to this effect in India Today, 31-5-1986, with the comment: “Hindu stalwarts like him are convinced – however ludicrous it might sound – that a conspiracy of sociology and demography will soon render the Hindus a minority in their own country.” ↩
Not that this is so extreme, for even model secularist Khushwant Singh writes (Need for a New Religion in India and Other Essays, UBSPD, Delhi 1993, p.16): “We must disenfranchise parents who have more than two children and forbid them from holding elective offices. We must also make sterilisation of both parents on the birth of their second child compulsory.” ↩
Including Madanlal Pahwa, a refugee from West Pakistan and an accomplice in the Mahatma Gandhi murder case, whom I interviewed in Mumbai, January 1996. ↩
Anwar Shaikh: Is India Going Islamic? – a Review (private pamphlet reviewing Baljit Rai’s book, Cardiff 1994), p.8. In his latest book (A Tale of Two Gujarati Saints, A. Ghosh, Houston 1998), he explicitly abandons this position. ↩
Baljit Rai: Is India Going Islamic?, p.107 ↩
A. Vashisht: “Marriage game: beat the Mussalman”, Young India, July 1995. ↩
A. Chatterjee: Hindu Nation (Voice of India, 1995), p.45. ↩
And as late as 1976, my schoolteacher of Catholic religion told us to have many children, for this was the way to make the Catholic community stronger and more powerful. On present trends, the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland is all set to numerically overtake the Protestant majority. ↩