Population control bill – a tool to dehumanize Muslims

By Zainab Khan

The Rwanda media has again accelerated their propaganda to further dehumanize Indian Muslims, this time using the population control bill as their tool.

The discussions around the population control bill have been gaining momentum again these days after the Uttar Pradesh law commission released a draft population bill. The announcement has sparked debates once again in the country right before the UP assembly elections of 2022. The bill claims that anyone with more than two children will be exempted from several state government benefits. Ironically, Ravi Kishan, a famous Bhojpuri Actor and BJP MP is going to table the bill who himself has four children.

I will restrain myself from going into the debate of whether or not the bill will prove fruitful for the country. The subject of this piece shall remain how this bill has been used to target Muslims.

Population control bill has been time and again used in the country to spread a narrative that the Muslim community (who account for 14.2% of the total population) will surpass the Hindu population (who account for 79.8% of the total population). According to Pew Research centre by 2050 Muslims will comprise 18.4% of the total population. These numbers are enough for anyone to understand that the popular narrative that ‘Muslims will outnumber Hindus’ have been used intentionally for gaining political benefits.

However, These numbers haven’t changed anything. Recently Himanta Biswa sarma, CM of Assam has urged ‘the minority community to adopt population control even though Assam (the state constitutes around 40.03% of Muslims) has a gross fertility rate of 1.9 which is lower than the national average of 2.179. The United Nations Population Division defines sub-replacement fertility as any rate below approximately 2.1 children born per woman of childbearing age, but the threshold can be as high as 3.4 in some developing countries because of higher mortality rates.

This is just one of the many remarks made by politicians time and again to create a narrative that ‘only one community’ (targeting Muslims) is responsible for the problem of population explosion in India. There is hardly any reality in these claims. The population growth rate in India peaked in the 1980s and since then it is continuously falling. According to a national family health survey(2015-2016) , 83% of the women with more than two children are Hindu. These numbers are a slap in the face of false claims.

This isn’t the first time that the bill has been used to dehumanize Muslims. For instance, Chaudhary who is the head of Jansankhya Samadhan Foundation, an NGO told Aljazeera in an interview that, “When we travel across the country, 95 per cent of the people say that Muslims are driving India’s population explosion. Hindus tell me, ‘there is no point in telling us to control the population, you should tell the Muslims.’ The thing is, this is the fact.”

In 2018, Giriraj Singh remarked that ‘one particular community’ is responsible for the increase in population in the country which is curbing development. He went even further and said that ‘the particular community has ‘sworn’ to continue doing it to get a majority. Moreover, he didn’t stop here, in one of his tweets he mentioned that India may witness another Partition in 2047 on the basis of population.

These are just a few of the countless instances where the population has been used as a tool to spread islamophobia.

Another important thing to note is that Uttar Pradesh’s population control bill will be a private members’ bill. A private members’ bill is introduced by a member of parliament who isn’t a minister of the government. The probability of a private members’ bill becoming a law is very low. It was on August 9, 1970, when a private member bill was last passed, around 50 years ago. Besides, even if the BJP government tries hard to pass the bill then it will have to face court where it is very unlikely to get approval because it is a clear challenge to article 21 of the Indian constitution. The puttaswamy judgement recognises the right of women to make reproductive choices as a part of personal liberty under article 21.

So why did the UP government decide to introduce a bill which has a very little scope of taking the shape of law? Why did the government plan to present the bill just months before the assembly elections? The bill serves no other purpose except to heat the newsrooms and divert people from the real issues. It has been well crafted right before the UP assembly elections 2022 to take political advantage by sparking communal debates once again.

Zainab Khan

Student at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh

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