Recently an upcoming Bollywood movie has become the talk of the town.
The movie is titled Hum Do Hamare Barah, a literal English rendering of which would be “We are Two, Ours [implying children] are Twelve.”
At face value this may come across as being relatively innocent, but there is a sinister motive behind the title. As usual (and even casual) in PM Modi-fied Hindu Nationalist-ruled India, it is yet another dig at Muslims.
More specifically, it is an insinuation towards Muslims being demographically more prolific than others, particularly in comparison with Hindus. This is also something which is made quite apparent by the actual movie poster itself.
Many immediately understood the message that was being peddled.
On Sunday, journalist Rana Ayyub had tweeted the poster of Hum Do Humare Baarah and questioned the Central Board of Film Certification for clearing the film. Her tweet read, “How does the censor board (Central Board of Film Certification) allow a film like this that depicts Muslims as the reason for population explosion and extends the relentless attack on the community. The brazen hate and Islamophobia when they use the image of a Muslim family and call it ‘Hum do Hamare Barah’.” A Twitter user responded to her tweet and wrote, “Bollywood’s part of a devious ploy…”
Basically, Muslims are being accused of generating the “population growth” within India.
Of course, no one seems to be asking why it is that today in 2022 Hindus account for 1 billion of the estimated 1.4 billion population.
I mean, surely they must also be quite prolific in order to achieve such numbers—and even more so if you take into account the so-called “Islamic genocide of Hindus” alleged by the Hindutva. One can only wonder how many Hindus there would be without this supposed “genocide.” 20 billion perhaps?
But let’s focus on dissecting the demographic anxiety.
A Historic Fear
Such rhetoric isn’t even new. As early on as 1909—more than a century ago—Lt. Col. U.N. Mukherjee penned a pamphlet (originally a series of articles), Hindus: A Dying Race. Within this pamphlet he examined various censuses and concluded that the Hindus were losing the numbers game to other communities. He claimed that they were losing this battle mainly against the Muslims who are fertile because of their “virility.”
Dr Prabhu Bapu, in his Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial North India, 1915-1930, summarizes the pamphlet as follows, on p. 16:
It portrayed a grim picture of the future of the Hindu community through a selective use of the census data and projections on a biological ‘Hindu extinction’ within the next 420 years due to a relative increase in the Muslim and Christian population. Mukherji predicted the decline of Hindus as a community through conversions and the rapid growth rates of ‘virile, energetic and united’ Muslims.
Despite being criticized on academic grounds as early on as 1911 by Kishori Lal Sarkar, this idea of a dying Hindu demographic and a “productive” Muslim one would go on to become one of the primary components of Hindu nationalism.
For instance Rakesh Sinha, a parliamentarian and Hindu nationalist ideologue who is (far too) often seen on TV, re-edited Mukherjee’s pamphlet in 2016.
The most representative national survey, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) which covers the years 2019-2021 found out that India’s total fertility rate now stands at 2.0.
The total fertility rate nationally, which is also inclusive of Muslims, is thus below the replacement level of 2.1. So imagine what it would be at for just Hindus alone.
In other words, Hinduism, which relies heavily on numbers as it won’t (or more accurately, can’t) convert people into it, is now officially a “dying religion” as Hindu numbers were only fueled by Hindu demographics, which is now in decay.
Keep in mind that within this total fertility rate there’s also the average Hindu, including those in poor and rural areas which are always more prolific. In fact, if you dig further and examine the urban and upper-caste Hindu (a socioeconomic minority) for instance, it seems that they actually dropped below the replacement level around 20 years ago.
This is also the reason behind the urban upper-caste Hindu embracing Hindu nationalism so readily and becoming the brain or the financer. This is because for them, it all becomes an issue of identity politics and survival, where the “prolific and virile” Muslim is seemingly eating up his space.
It also explains the deep frustrations surrounding “Love Jihad” and conversions. When you’re demographically in retreat, “losing” even a single individual is considered as some kind of civilizational loss. After all, if the average total fertility rate is 2.0 we could safely assume that for the urban upper-caste Hindu the fertility rate is probably around 1. So when their only son embraces Islam, or when their only daughter converts and marries a Muslim, for them it’s basically the end of that “Hindu lineage.”
Below is the total fertility rate differential between Hindus and Muslims for different Indian states. These are older numbers (2001 and 2011) but they do demonstrate a trend—see for example Haryana, an Indian state where the Muslim percentage is otherwise half of the national percentage:
Despite the diminishing gap, the Muslims are still in the positive. This means that while the Hindu population does not grow and in fact diminishes, the Muslim population does grow, albeit not as rapidly as alleged by Hindu nationalists for fearmongering. But for them, even the slightest growth among Muslims is far too much.
Besides conversions and sometimes immigration (that of Bengali-Muslims), this is the reason why India as a whole and many Indian states in particular—such as West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala—witness a stable and continuous growth among Muslims.
We can now see how this Hindu fear is somewhat justified. And while they make movies about it, we hope that our brothers and sisters in India will continue having more and more children in sha’ Allah.