Growing up, I remember being very excited for Republic Day each year. While I always struggled with getting up early, but that one particular day I woke up before the alarm rang. The feeling of pride while watching the parade has always been indescribable for me, and no other festival or holiday made me feel the same happiness.
Approximately 20 years later, now, I find that the same holiday, my beloved Republic Day has ceased to excite me, and all the celebrations just seem too vain for me to participate in. I have spent the last couple of years trying to understand what brought about this change and while I may always continue to find new reasons, one thing that struck me was that this is not the country that I grew up believing in and loving. Since the past few years, all the paraphernalia of the parade seemed futile compared to the lakhs of people struggling to survive each day.
Today, the reasons for this lack of emotion are vastly different and diverse. Despite having a strong love for my country, I don’t feel proud of it anymore. Over the past few years, this nation has disrespected itself and each life that was sacrificed for its freedom, discredited its own history and constitution, and reduced itself to just another state heavily intertwined in its communal politics.
One significant point that has been validated with a constant observation of the people around me – largely constituted by Hindus, is that communal politics is not just about what the current government believes in and practices, but also what a large section of the population has systemically been led to believe: that “their religion (Hindu dharma) is in danger.”
For building a perspective on equality, justice and freedom, it may not be ideal to talk about how Hinduism has been misinterpreted and misused but it is difficult to deny that this discussion is important.
Like many of us, I have grown up with stories of morality, kindness and humanity and the elders have often talked about similar values as our innate ‘Indianness.’ Yet, I now find the same people choosing to subscribe to an opposite viewpoint.
Even a few conversations with them are enough to bring to light the point that this conscious choice is heavily impacted with decades of nurtured belief that their religion is in danger. This fear is so strong that they are keen to find reasons to legitimise it and sadly, are often successful.
The most common argument that I have heard is, “Look around the area we live in, there are more Muslims than Hindus so how can you say that we are not in danger?” As myriad as the counter arguments can be, I will focus on one – the aspect of population.
As we await the Census 2021 data, let us take a close look at the data for the two preceding periods: 1991-2001 and 2001-2011. The respective percentage figures for the two periods shows a decline in the Hindu population from 80.5% to 79.8% and an increase in the Muslim population from 13.4% to 14.2%.
While these figures are used to aid the argument that the trend will lead to a point where Muslims will be in majority, what is generally ignored is the dip in the growth rates of both the populations. The growth percentage for Muslim population for the 1991-2001 decade was 29.3% (the figure was revised after accounting for the fact that 1991 census could not take place in Jammu and Kashmir) and 24.6 % for 2001-2011 decade, showing a decline of 4.7 percentage points.
Over the same periods, the growth rate of Hindu population declined from 20.3% (1991-2001) to 17.7% (2001-2011) – a difference of 2.6 percentage points.
Referring to a news report for the calculations, if we consider a scenario with the same trend, by 2061, the Muslim population is expected to stand at 16.89% and the Hindu population at 81.06%. Another case pointed here, with a rise in growth rate of the Hindu population but the same (or worse) decline in the Muslim population will also lead to a majority Hindu population in the country.
A study of a third scenario, reversing the trends from the second case, reveals that it carries a nil probability of realisation, as for this the Muslim population would need to have a substantial increase in their growth rates whereas the highest exponential growth rates do not generally exceed 2%.
Combining these statistics with the fact that growth rates decline with improvement in literacy and socio-economic factors, even if at a slow pace, the idea that Hindu population is in danger because of the rise in the Muslim population is far-fetched. The real dangers to the Hindu religion and more importantly, the country as a whole, have their origins inherent in a strategic manipulation of history and facts, and building a desire for a supposed return to glory with a Hindu Rashtra.
As the country celebrated its 71st Republic Day, I tried to finally articulate a part of what I felt about this day that was once special to me. On one hand there is a fear for the country I grew up loving and the values it once represented, while on the other the active voices of dissent rising as the beacon of hope, the true manifestation of “We, the people of India” as enshrined in the Preamble.
But to really bring about a revolution, we need more. We need the populations living in shrouded beliefs and false narratives to break through, engage in in-depth study of history, society and politics and bring back the democratic spirit of India – our ‘Indianness.’