Dismissing propaganda launched by Hindu nationalists against the growing Muslim populace in India, former top bureaucrat and author Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi said Hindus will always remain in the majority in the country.
Muslims, who number 172 million as per the 2011 census, will never outnumber the majority 966.3 million Hindus, said Quraishi, who recently published "The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning, and Politics in India."
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, he said: "A widespread narrative in India suggests that Muslims have too many children, skewing the national demographic balance…the right-wing [Hindu nationalists] propaganda alleges that this is all part of a deliberate plan by Muslims to capture political power in the country, and the common belief that Islam is against family planning."
Quraishi, who also served as Chief Election Commissioner, states that Muslims are embracing family planning at a faster pace than Hindus and that high birth rates are due to solely "non-religious factors."
"I have tried to cover the facts, figures and myths about the prevalence of family planning practices among Muslims in India," he said.
Several "conspiracy theories" have been floated, mainly by right-wing Hindu groups, that the number of Muslims in the country – nearly 172 million – would eventually outnumber the 966.3 million Hindus in the country.
Quraishi, however, says the Muslim population will never exceed the Hindu population.
"It is an established fact that Muslims in India have been rapidly adopting family planning. The National Family Health Surveys have shown that over the past three decades, new-generation Muslim families have done a better job at family planning than their Hindu compatriots," he said.
When asked about the perception that the Muslim population in India is growing faster than the Hindu population, Quraishi says the percentage of the Muslim population in the country has increased from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011. But now, they are adopting family planning at a faster rate than Hindus.
"This is why the family planning gap between the two communities is narrowing," he said while maintaining that "high birth is dependent on purely non-religious factors," and wide regional variation in family planning practices across states "indicates there is no Muslim or Hindu birth rate."
In his book, the former election commissioner has also talked about the misconceptions dominating society and their realities.
"The primary misconception is that Muslims produce too many children that disturb the demographic balance. Even though it is true that Muslims have the lowest level of family planning practice at 45.3%, but they are taking to family planning fast, in fact, faster than Hindus," he states, adding that a common misconception is that Islam is against family planning, but in reality, "Holy Quran has nowhere prohibited family planning."
India's last census, conducted in 2011, revealed that Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, while Muslims make up 14.2%. This year, the country will conduct one of the most extensive censuses in its history.
Quraishi says, "Myths have been spread systematically for decades" and have "penetrated deep into the minds of the Hindu masses," there is a need to reach a large audience through the use of multiple media sources.
"As authentic information is seldom accessible and, in its absence, negative propaganda thrives," he says, "it was imperative to produce at least one good reference book illustrating the Islamic tenets for the Muslim audience."
The author has advocated several steps for the Muslim community, which can dispel the propaganda surrounding its population growth.
"Since this is a highly sensitive subject, the communication strategy has to be evolved with extreme care and caution," he said. "The approach has to be rational rather than emotional, informative rather than didactic, and, most importantly, persuasive rather than antagonistic."