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Will religious census stir up India’s political cauldron?

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Lucknow/Patna: Will the religious census released by the central government on Tuesday stir up India’s political cauldron? Reports from two states with a sizeable Muslim population suggest that it just could.

In Uttar Pradesh, the answer seemingly is in the affirmative, fear many, as the already polarized polity of India’s most politically crucial state is set to be harvested for electoral gains in the run-up to the state assembly elections due in early 2017.

While most political leaders in Uttar Pradesh — including the ones known for competing with their professional adversaries for quotes and sound bytes — have refused to come on record candidly, there is an overwhelming sense in the state that the “religious census will precipitate into a politics-based on religious lines”. The Muslim population in the state has grown to 19.8 percent in the last 14 years — an increase of 0.86 percent.

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“The census on religious lines had been held back for long and we all know its release has a political statement to it,” a Congress leader, not wishing to be named, told IANS.

He further pointed out that the fact that the Hindu population had slipped below 80 percent for the first time — juxtaposed with the marginal growth of Muslims — was “sure to be used by those who play politics of religion”.

State spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vijay Bahadur Pathak, though not ready for a usual full-length statement, told IANS that the census had thrown up two things which needed to be immediately tackled and with all seriousness — jansankhya niyantran (population control) and jansankhya santulan (population balance).

“Anybody who wishes for development will think in similar fashion,” he elaborated.Eminent Sunni cleric Maulana Irfan Mian Farangi Mahali saw the release of the religious census as a “political stunt which will only end up widening the growing gap between two communities”.

“The real issues are much different like price rise and corruption but such data is sure to stoke the imagination of india-sikhs-2009-1-3-6-34-49

political parties,” he averred.Of a population of 19.98 crore in 2011, Uttar Pradesh now has 15.93 crore Hindus, 3.84 crore Muslims, 64.35 lakh Sikhs and 35.6 lakh Christians.

The districts with highest concentration of Muslims are Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore, Bareilly and Saharanpur. In the sensitive area of western UP, which has been a communal flash point over the past few years, in 17 districts the ratio of Hindus and Muslims is very wide and only Amroha and Rampur have more Muslims.

Senior journalist Rajiv Ranjan Jha said Uttar Pradesh was a sensitive state and one where politics revolved around caste and community. “There can be no doubt that the release of the census would trigger a political chain-reaction and harvest divisive results,” Jha told IANS.

A report from Patna said that taking Bihar’s sizeable Muslim population into consideration, not only are the RJD, the JD-U and Congress eyeing their support, but even the BJP is also trying to gain their support ahead of the assembly polls expected in October.

“No political party can ignore this sizeable population in view of the coming polls,” social activist Nayiar Fatmi told IANS.

Soroor Ahmad, a socio-political analyst, said the Muslim population is the highest in Bihar’s most backward pockets with high degree of poverty, illiteracy and migration.
Muslims in districts like Kishanganj, Purnea, Araria, Katihar and Supaul — known as the Seemanchal region as they share border with Nepal and Bangladesh — have been playing an important role in the polls.

Ahmad said that AIMIM president Asadullah Owaisi recently visited and addressed a public meeting in Kishanganj to explore possibilities of contesting the Bihar polls.

According to the 2011 census, Bihar’s population stood at 10.5 crore, of which 16.5 percent were Muslims.

 

(IANS)

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

World Hindu Congress, Hindu
Hindus don’t oppose anyone, don’t aspire to dominate: RSS chief

“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

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Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)