BJP leaders cite growing Muslim population as threat to India; facts don't back their claims

By Chaitanya Mallapur

As two elected representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including a union minister, cite rising Muslim population as a threat, the facts are: Muslim mothers have three children on average, while Hindus have two, but fertility rates are falling, and Muslim population growth is at a 20-year low.

No more than 18.4 percent of Indians will be Muslim by 2050, from 14.4 percent in 2011, and after 32 years, three in four Indians will be Hindu, according to a FactChecker analysis of available data. Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain fertility rates are lower than that of Hindu and Muslim.

 BJP leaders cite growing Muslim population as threat to India; facts dont back their claims

Representational image. Reuters

On 1 January, 2018–the year eight states go to the polls–union minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises Giriraj Singh said a growing population, “especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country”, and Banwari Lal Singhal, a BJP legislator from Rajasthan said while Hindus have one or two children and focus on educating them, “Muslims worried about (sic) how to take over the nation by increasing their population.”

The latest figures on children per mother by a religious group are more than a decade old, sourced from National Family Health Survey, 2005-06 (NFHS-3). Hindu and Muslim fertility rates are falling at an equal pace, data shows. Despite the decadal increase in the proportion of Muslims in India from 13.4 percent in 2001 to 14.4 percent, as per Census 2011, Muslim population growth recorded a 20-year low in 2011–falling to 24.6 percent from 32.8 percent in 1991, a decline, as we said, similar to that of Hindus (22.7 percent in 1991 to 16.7 percent in 2011).

Despite the four-percentage-point rise in the proportion of Muslims over the next 32 years, there is no likelihood they can–as the BJP leaders suggest–outnumber Hindus, according to projections made in 2015 by Pew Research Center, a think-tank based in the US.

Muslims want to take over nation by increasing population: Rajasthan legislator

“Hindus giving birth to only one or two children and are worried about educating them,” said Singhal. “But Muslims worried (sic) about how to take over the nation by increasing their population; education and development have no significance to them. It’s my personal opinion."

Singhal’s statement generated discussion and debates on television channels and social media.

In a similar statement to Singhal’s, union minister Singh said: “The growing population of the country, especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country”.

In brief, these are the claims made:

Claim 1 - Hindus give birth only to one or two children; Muslims worried about how to take over the nation by increasing their population: Singhal

Claim 2 - Growing Muslim population is a threat to social fabric, social harmony and development of the country: Giriraj Singh

Let’s explore these claims in detail.


Fact 1 - 2.6 births per Hindu woman, 3.4 births per Muslim woman: NFHS 3

The rise in population is linked to the total fertility rate (TFR), the number of children a woman has over her childbearing years.

India’s TFR has declined from 3.4 in 1992-93 (NFHS 1) to 2.2 in 2015-16 (NFHS 4). The latest data have not made TFR by religion available.

The TFR for Hindus in 2005-06 was 2.6 births per woman and 3.4 for Muslims, according to NFHS 3, the latest available fertility rate by religion.

The fertility rate among Hindus and Muslims saw a similar declining trend of 0.2 percentage points each, according to our comparison of NFHS 3 and NFHS 2 (1998-99) data.


The fertility rate for Indian Muslim women fell from 4.1 in 2001 to 3.2 in 2010 and is expected to be 2.1 by 2050, FactChecker reported, quoting from a Pew report. Hindu fertility rates are 2.5, expected to fall to 1.9 by 2050, below the replacement level–a point at which population stabilises–of 2.1.

“India’s Muslim community will expand faster than its Hindu population, rising from 14.4 percent in 2010 to 18.4 percent in 2050,” the Pew report said. “But, even with this increase, Hindus will make up more than three-in-four Indians (76.7 percent) in 2050. Indeed, the number of Hindus in India will still be larger than the five largest Muslim populations in the world’s biggest Muslim countries (India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh) combined.”

Fertility rates in India are more closely related to education levels and the socio-economic development within a state, than to religious beliefs, IndiaSpend reported. Richer families, states with better health facilities and higher female literacy have lower fertility rates, the analysis revealed.

Fact 2 - Muslim population growth at 20-year low; Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists have least children

India is home to more than 1.21 billion people: 79.8 percent Hindu (966 million), 14.2 percent Muslim (172 million), 2.3 percent Christian (28 million) and 1.7 percent Sikh (20 million), among major religious groups, according to Census 2011 data.


Over the decade to 2011, India’s population grew 17.7 percent. Muslim population grew fastest at 24.6 percent, followed by Hindu (16.8 percent), Christian (15.5 percent), Sikh (8.4 percent) and Buddhist (6.1 percent), according to census 2011 data released by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner in August 2015.

The proportion of Muslims in Indian population increased from 13.4 percent in 2001 to 14.2 percent in 2011; the proportion of Hindus declined from 80.5 percent in 2001 to 79.8 percent in 2011; Sikhs decreased from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent over the same period. There was no change in Christian and Jain proportions.

Based on the data released by the government in August 2015, media reports also pointed out that Islam was the fastest growing religion in India.

However, as we said, Muslim population growth fell to a 20-year low to 24.6 percent in 2011, the proportion of Muslims increasing across all states.


The decadal population growth rates of both Hindus–22.7 percent (1991), 19.9 percent (2001), 16.7 percent (2011)–and Muslims–32.8 percent (1991), 29.5 percent (2001), 24.6 percent (2011)–are declining.

The growth rate of Muslim population will continue to decline and will “stabilise” to the rate of Hindu population growth, Ram Puniyani, a social activist and former professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, wrote in, an online opinions portal.

“Interestingly, the population increase of Hindus during the period of 2001 to 2011 has been 133 millions (sic), which is close to the total population of Muslims in 2001,” wrote Puniyani. “The scare being spread through (a) word-of-mouth campaign and through social media about Muslim population taking over the Hindu population holds no water, as there are clear trends of decline in the decadal rate of growth of (the) Muslim population as well.”

FactChecker is fact-checking initiative, scrutinising for veracity and context statements made by individuals and organisations in public life.

Updated Date: Jan 15, 2018 14:18:05 IST