Indian Christians could feel the fallout of a prominent Hindu leader’s proposal to ban having more than two children, as the country’s population of religious minorities may shrink further in the coming decades.
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the hard-line Hindu organization Rashtirya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS), told supporters in Muradabad, Uttar Pradesh that restricting the number of children per couple was the next item on the agenda.
He added that the RSS does not want any couple in India to have more than two children.
Christian leaders have viewed that statement as a wakeup call, as they comprise 2.8 percent of India’s 1.3 billion-strong population. Hindus account for 78 percent of the population, followed by Muslims, who make up 14 percent.
“Such statements are aimed at instilling fear in the Christian community, which is already minuscule and has meager representation in the country,” Jospeh Dias, who heads Christian Secular Forum told LiCAS.news.
Dias believes it is a signal to religious minorities that their population numbers are being watched, with their already small percentage of the country projected to shrink further.
Founded in 1925, RSS claims that India is the land of Hindus and religious minorities should accept Hindu supremacy. The organization has also advocated for population caps on religious minorities to ensure Hindu dominance. Although a non-governmental organization, RSS has strong ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
However, Michael Mascarenhas, a prominent Indian legal expert, said putting a cap on the number of children families can have would violate the Constitution.
“Free countries in today’s world seldom take such unnatural measures. India must not become China and North Korea, where peoples’ rights are given the lowest priority. Such a measure, if implemented, will only instill fear into the already fear-stricken Christians in India,” Mascarenhas told LiCAS.news.
Subhash Kumar, a New Delhi-based social activist, said a ban on having more than two children is impractical and infeasible.
“What about the widowers who already have children and want to marry again? Will they be banned from having more children? What will be criteria for deciding their fate,” asked Subhash.
Subhash argues that any such child cap would be met with protests similar to those that have erupted over the country’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which passed on Dec. 11, 2019. That law provides a path to citizenship for Buddhist, Christian Hindu, Jain, Parsi, and Sikh practitioners, but not Muslims, fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
Critics argue the law is discriminatory. In December 2019, over 200 Christian leaders in India condemned the CAA.
Allen Jospeh, a civil rights activist and writer, said Bhagwat’s discriminatory plan was aimed directly at India’s Christian and Muslim minorities.
“[RSS] on the one hand asks Hindus to have more children and not to rely on two kids alone. On the other hand, it asks the government to ban having more than two children in India. There is something more sinister in this. It is possible that the ban could selectively target minority groups, but not Hindus. It is going to further squeeze the space for Christians,” said Allen.
The U.S.-based organization Open Doors, which publishes an annual World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian, ranked India the 10th most dangerous state in its latest report.
The U.S.-based think tank, Pew Research Center, reported Christian’s share of India’s total population is slated to decrease from 2.5 percent in 2010 to 2.2 percent in 2050.
However, the actual number of Christians over that period is expected to grow from 31.13 million to 36.74 million.