R K Ohri
India faces a major demographic upheaval. The sharply rising Muslim numbers, both in absolute and percentage terms, and a corresponding decline in the population of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists has the potential to escalate fault-line conflicts and create a Lebanon-like situation. Data from the last six censuses held since 1951 suggests that in percentage terms there has been a relentless increase in the population of only one community, the Muslims; all other communities are in a declining mode. Since 1981, Muslim population growth has been in a fast forward mode, growing at almost 45% higher rate than Hindus and Christians. In terms of percentage, Sikh population has recorded the steepest decline since independence.
Census 2001 put the decadal growth rate of Muslims at around 36%, while Hindu growth rate declined from 23% to 20%. On the eve of the Maharashtra Assembly elections, an unseemly political controversy was manufactured by the government on the ground that since no census had taken place in J&K in 1991, the conclusions drawn in terms of Census 2001 data were faulty. This led to a very clumsy fudging of Census 2001, by omitting from the census 3.67 crore people living in Jammu & Kashmir and Assam, States having high Muslim population.
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