Changing Demography Has Turned West UP Into A Communal Tinderbox

A recent trip to West U.P., my ancestral homeland, brought the kind of clarity which only direct experience can bring. Having heard reports about the growing lawlessness in the region –  frequent riots, political goondaism, targeted attacks on women – it still required a visit to the region to understand the gravity of the situation.

After a gap of 15 years, I traveled through multiple districts in West UP such as Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh and Mathura recently. Two things struck me the most – the relatively decent road infrastructure (mostly national highways) as compared to bone-rattling rides on my previous trip,  and the increased Muslim presence. My hometown, which once had only a scattering of Muslims, has witnessed a significant growth in the Muslim population. Many of the old families had migrated to either Delhi/Noida or newer areas within the same town. A close relative living in another part of the region had a similar experience to narrate regarding growing Muslim population. The frequent riots and spate of rapes in Muzaffarnagar and other parts of West UP over the last few years were widely discussed causes of concern.

So when I saw a recent tweet series by @maidros78 regarding the demographic trend in West U.P., comparing census 2011 with census 1981 data, it instantly connected with my on ground experience. The tweets have been storified as – “Story of Collapse of Hindu population. in parts of UP” by @maidros78 with vital inputs from @DivyaSoti and @arya_shaktar

The below table uses data from the tweets mentioned above. It shows the sharp decline in Hindu population and correlated rise in Muslim population in certain districts of UP in Western & Terai (districts bordering Nepal) region of the state

Changing Demography of West UP
Rapidly changing demography of West UP; courtesy  @maidros78

The crux of these finding is that West UP is losing Hindu population % faster than even Assam. Muslim growth in West UP is faster than anywhere else in Bharat.

Reasons behind this drop in Hindu population

The rapidly changing demography of West UP has the following drivers –

  • A slow exodus – outward migration of Hindus for security and other reasons
    • Increased low-level rioting and targeting of girls & women (that media ignores or buries in inside pages) is forcing people to move to areas perceived as safer.
    • Urban population percentage of Hindus in this region is even lower. Many youth have migrated to places like Delhi/NCR, Bangalore. Posh colonies in towns of West UP are full of retired people.
    • Even in rural areas, youth are increasingly turning away from farming – the aspiration is to migrate to metros and look for white-collar jobs.
  • Higher fertility of Muslims
    • Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is the average number of children expected to be born per woman during her entire span of reproductive period. As per the NHFS-3 (National Health and Family Survey) of 2005-06, nation-wide Muslim TFR was at 3.1 versus 2.7 for Hindus. Moreover, the inter-state and inter-regional variations impacting areas like West UP get papered over by analysts.
    • With Hindus holding larger proportion of land in the region, their maintaining a low TFR to protect fragmentation of land holding could also be a contributing factor.
  • In-ward migration of Muslims
    • Northern districts of West UP have seen an anomalous rise of Muslim population. For eg, a southern West UP district Bulandshahr saw Muslim population rise by 3-4% in 30 yrs, but northern districts like Muzaffarnagar & Saharanpur saw Muslim population rise by 7-14% in the same period.
    • Presence of Sunni Islamic seminaries at Deoband & Bareilly lends organizational backing to immigration. There are signs that Bengali Muslim migrants (either from West Bengal or illegal immigrants from Bangladesh) are also settling in significant numbers in this area.

Just Hindutva Scaremongering?

Denial of uncomfortable socio-cultural realities which contradict fashionable liberal-secular notions is common in educated Hindus. Some will claim that migration from UP/Bihar to other parts of Bharat is common, and that the same phenomenon should explain the reduced Hindu population in West UP as well. But what this overlooks is the fact that West UP is similar to Haryana – highly fertile land and success of the Green Revolution has created rich rich farming communities; this region attracts labourers from outside. However, a combination of factors listed above is causing Hindu population to drop.

Mainstream media articles on Bharat’s demographic changes are unanimous in stressing upon the ‘marginal’ increase of 0.8% in overall Muslim population from 13.4% in 2001 to 14.2% in 2011. They claim that the higher Muslim fertility is explained by the lower education levels and lack of economic opportunity. Such articles tend to brush under the carpet some inconvenient facts:

  • What explains the fact that even in ‘progressive’ Kerala,  Muslims have a high TFR of 3.0 while the Hindus are at 1.7?
  • Religion does play a role. Muslims have been much less willing to adopt family planning practices as compared to other communities. When ‘mainstream’ educated Islamist preachers bombard Muslims with messages that family planning should not be followed, this should not come as a surprise-

  • It is the regional variations in demography that are the cause of concern. Abnormal rise of Muslim populations in pockets of Assam, West Bengal, UP, Kerala need to be analyzed and discussed more widely; but media prefers to spin data to arrive at conclusions which dismiss these valid concerns.
  • History repeats for those who refuse to learn from it. Undivided Bharat had a population of 24% Muslims in 1941, and that was enough to divide the nation (even though around 1/3rd of those Muslims chose to stay back even though they agreed in principle with the idea of partition). Also, let us not forget that the partition movement was led by a barely religious highly-educated Barrister of Law – Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Source: ‘Religious Demography of India’ by the Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai. Courtesy:
Source: ‘Religious Demography of India’ by the Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai. Courtesy:

It is no one’s argument that all Muslims of West UP have a sinister jihadi design, but the fact remains that when Islamist  intolerance rises, silent majority of Muslims are unwilling or unable to counter it. How many prominent Muslims and organizations spoke up for the right to free speech of Kamlesh Tiwari when maulanas of all types were announcing fatwas & bounties on his head? Or for Shireen Dalvi who was hounded for daring to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons? Recent events in Kerala are just the latest example of how everyone falls silent when Islamofascist groups bare their fangs. Despite full knowledge of the brutality that Pakistan has unleashed on Baloch and PoK residents, Muslims in the Kashmir valley openly support Pakistan. On social media, one can find Muslims who believe that ISIS is just a front of Western powers and Israel to defame Islam, or that reports of ISIS atrocities on Yezidi are just fabrications.

What should Hindus do?

Unless Hindus realize the depth of the problem, the threat to their way of life and to Bharat, nothing will change. The first step in addressing a problem is acknowledging its existence. Hindus need to snap out of the ‘All Is Well’ propaganda fed to them by media, academics and civil society elements that blame the convenient fall guy (politicians, especially ‘right-wing Hindu’ parties) for all communal conflicts, while staying silent about the real dangerous forces. Wake up, step out of your gated communities and malls, and talk to those Hindus facing the heat of Islamist violence on the ground. Once Hindu society counter-mobilizes and plans effective strategies to stem the population loss in these areas, then politicians will follow – not the other way round. We cannot depend on one hero – either an individual or organization – to solve it all for us. This is a challenge which all of us have to acknowledge and fight.

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