Last month, in an oxymoronic move, an Indian BJP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Vikram Saini suggested that Hindus should have more children, that too at a governmental population control event. He cited his own example saying, “When we had two children, my wife said we did not need a third one, but I said we should have four to five.”

A representative of the state saying that people should have more children even if they don’t have the means to support them is highly damaging to a society that is already over populated and overburdened with poverty and deprivation.

He is not alone, there are many here in Pakistan who advocate the same on the hope that if God gives children then He will give them sustenance too, as if children appear out of thin air with no human intervention. Where in one country this type of absurdity comes from a right wing party who wants to populate the Subcontinent with Hindus, in another it comes from a right wing mindset that refuses to prioritise welfare over their lazy beliefs.

Coming back to the BJP, the party has been making these moves since it came to power, based on the fear that Muslims in India produce more children than Hindus. The Financial Times has called this the “battle of the babies”. This fear of a Muslim surge is unfounded. Just a basic perusal of birth rates in India suggests that across India Muslim fertility rates are declining faster than those of Hindus, and converging with them. While it was once true that the Muslim share of the population, at about 15 per cent, has grown from about 10 per cent in the past 60 years it was hardly because Muslims were trying to outbreed their Hindu neighbours. Poorer, less educated people tend to have larger families, and since 1947, many of those people are Muslims. In the relatively prosperous state of Kerala, Hindus and Muslims have equally small families.

India is expected to surpass China as the most populous country on the planet by 2024, an incredible feat given that in 1950, China’s population was one and a half times more than India’s. In 1951, Tamil Nadu’s population was slightly higher than Bihar’s. Six decades later, Bihar’s population is nearly 1.5 times Tamil Nadu’s. Madhya Pradesh in 1951 had 37% more people than Kerala; in 2011, it had 217% as many.

This is not to advocate for better policies in India, because frankly, nobody cares in Pakistan that the Indian right wing is running amok and fighting a war of ideologies with the bodies of poor women and children. However, there are lessons to learn from the neighbour - that we must not give the right wing in Pakistan so much space that they start advocating a population increase. With a population of over 193 million, we don’t need more people to starve and live in slums and on streets. High population levels are correlated with crime, child malnutrition, higher death rates and bad health in women.

We are a people who see men like Turkish President Erdogan as role models, men who call upon Muslims to reject contraception and have more children saying, "We will multiply our descendants," just like the BJP kooks across the border that we hate. While people who advocate rule of law, women’s rights, an end to acid attacks, and are pouring millions of dollars into female education across the world, like Asma Jehangir, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Malala Yousafzai, are called liberal agents sent to destroy Pakistan. As much as we love to hate these people while almost worshipping the Qadris and Khadim Rizvi’s there has to be some thought over who is offering or advocating for Pakistani youth a better, safer, fairer world. That better world is not coming from the right wing or its heroes. Population control is one very simple thing to stick to and will put Pakistan into the Middle Income country bracket, if only contraception was not a taboo and children were not under constant treat from everything, from sexual abuse to starvation. These threats in most cases do not come from the hated seculars and progressives, they come from an obsession with moral policing and “ghairat”.

It would look great for the BJP and the RSS if by power of sheer fertility Hindu’s become a 90 percent majority in India that collapses under its own weight. This ridiculous desire misses out one important fact. More saffron babies means more mouths to feed when resources are limited. Those who advocate having more children make sure that those children live in poverty and barely get by, destroying their own dreams of a “rising”, “shining”, “smiling” India, or whatever the new Modi-fied buzzword is. When they in India and we in Pakistan are done with eliminating minorities we will turn on ourselves.

 

n            The writer is studying South Asian history and politics at the Oxford University and is the former Op-Ed Editor of The Nation.