Article originali published in TOI
In three districts of Bengal, Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur, the Muslim population has surpassed the Hindu population, the Census 2011 data on Population by Religious Communities released on Tuesday, reveals. Moreover, if in India the Hindu population has dipped by 0.7 per cent, in Bengal it is much higher at 1.94 per cent. Correspondingly, if the Muslim population has increased by 0.8 per cent, in Bengal the growth has a higher rate – 1.77 per cent.
In Bengal’s 9.12 crore population, Hindus still comprise 6.4 crore people or 70.53 per cent of the population. Muslims comprise 2.4 crore population or 27.01 per cent. Compared to the 2001 Census data, this is slightly higher. For a decade earlier, the Hindu population in Bengal was 5.8 crore and Muslim population was 2 crore. Bengal’s population then, too was far lesser, at 8.01 crore. The only thing constant then and now is the asymmetrical spread of Bengal’s population by religion.
Three districts which the Muslims have overshot the Hindus at Murshidabad (47 lakh Muslims; 23 lakh Hindus), Malda (20 lakh Muslims; 19 lakh Hindus) and North Dinajpur (15 lakh Muslims; 14 lakh Hindus). For Adhir Chowdhury, Berhampore’s Congress MLA and state Congress president, it doesn’t pack a punch here. “If Anatanag district is highest in number of Muslims by percentage; Murshidabad is the highest by headcount. Infact, history says in Murshidabad the national tricolor was unfurled two days after August 15, 1947, for they had all but taken it that they would cede to East Pakistan. So I am not much surprised by the outcome,” he says.
Trinamool Congress MP Sultan Ahmed reasons, “I would like to interpret this due to the proximity of these districts to the Muslim-dominated districts of Kishangunj, Purnia and Katihar in Bihar. The BJP may cry itself hoarse raising the Bangladeshi immigrant bogey but had it been true, this would have been the picture in Nadia and North 24-Parganas, too.” In North 24-Parganas, the country’s most populous district with 10,009,781 people, Hindus account for over 73-lakhs and Muslims over 25-lakhs. In Nadia, Hindus account for 37 lakhs while Muslims 13 lakhs. “The incremental increase, which is in sync with the growth of population in Bengal buries the illegal migration theory, once for all,” Ahmed asserted.
The debate, however, doesn’t end there. BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said, “If that be so, why is the Muslim population in Bengal growing at a much higher pace than the national average? Correspondingly, why is the Hindu population declining? Like I have said before, the appeasement by the CPM and the Trinamool regime had led to unchecked illegal infiltration to Bengal by Bangladeshis. Their vote-bank politics has now absorbed them in Bengal, which is reflecting in the skewed ratios. This vindicates our claims.”
Nationwide the proportion of Hindu population to total population in 2011 has declined by 0.7 percentage points. The proportion of Muslim population to total population has increased by 0.8 percentage points. The national population growth rate of population in the decade 2001-2011 was 17.7 per cent. The growth rate of population of the different religious communities in the same period was as Hindus: 16.8 per cent; Muslim: 24.6 per cent; Christian: 15.5 per cent; Sikh: 8.4 per cent; Buddhist: 6.1 per cent and Jain: 5.4 per cent.
Total population in Bengal – 91,276,115
Total Hindu population – 64,385,546
33,046,557 (Males); 31,338,989 (Females)
Total Muslim population – 24,654,825
12,640,092 (Males): 12,014,733 (Females)
Total population in Bengal – 80,176,197
Total Hindu population – 58,104,835
30,069,503 (Males); 28,035,332 (Females)
Total Muslim population — 20,240,543
10,470,406 (Males): 9,770,137 (Females)