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Why UP Law Commission’s draft population control bill is likely to face most challenges from Muslim community

The biggest challenge towards implementation is the fact that people who believe it is their religious mandate to procreate will not be hindered by government disincentives towards the same. Thus, those who want to have more than two children will continue to have the same.

There is a lot of discussion around the draft population control bill proposed by the Law Commission in Uttar Pradesh. The draft, titled The Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilization and Welfare) Bill, 2021 contains numerous provisions to provide incentives for people to have only two children, or even more, for a single.

In a separate article, we have discussed the issues with the individual provisions of the draft. Here, we shall discuss the challenges to the implementation of the law and the extent to which it is likely to achieve its stated objectives.

Why most resistance is likely to come from the Muslim population

It can be said for certain that the draft if implemented into law will face severe challenges from a significant section of the population. And upon its announcement, it is pretty clear where the challenge will come from.

Zainab Sikander Siddiqui, Islamist apologist columnist for The Print, has said that the Uniform Civil Code and the population control bill is the basis on which BJP will try to win 2022. While she does not state it explicitly, the hints are clear that she believes the draft is directed at the Muslim community, since she if of the fervent disposition that every move of the party is directed against Muslims, even though that is clearly not the case.

Mohsin Raza, the MoS for Minority Welfare Muslim Waqf and Hajj in UP, also said, “If we have two children it is easier for us to make them doctors or engineers, but if we have 8, then there are possibilities that they will grow up to only become labourers or make punctures at the cycle shop.”

Studies have well documented the fact that Muslim women tend to have more children than their Hindu counterparts, all other factors considered. According to available data, the total fertility rate (TFR) of the Muslim community in Uttar Pradesh, that is the number of children per women, was 3.10 in 2015-16 and for Hindus, the number was 2.67. Thus, it is an observable fact that Muslims tend to have larger families.

Thus, it is likely to be face resistance the most from members of the Muslim community.

Challenges towards implementation

The biggest challenge towards implementation is the fact that people who believe it is their religious mandate to procreate will not be hindered by government disincentives towards the same. Thus, those who want to have more than two children will continue to have the same.

This mentality is more prevalent among the Muslim community as the religious sanction to procreate is sanctified by Islamic tenets and clerics. Therefore, the proposed draft if implemented will further tilt the scales of demographic balance towards them and give cause for demographic instability.

Moreover, the TFR among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh is on the decline as well. Under such circumstances, political action might instigate a fair section of them to turn more religious and have more children fueled not just by religious mandates but political cause as well.

It should not be considered beyond the realm of possibilities that having more children may become a symbol of political protest. Under such circumstances, the draft if turned into law will act counterintuitively against its intended purposes.

The same factors are unlikely to operate among the Hindu masses. Thus, it is very likely that the impact will be borne primarily by the Hindu community with birth rates plummeting faster than it currently is with the same remaining fairly stagnant for the Muslim community after opposing factors canceling themselves out.

If that is indeed the case, then the proposed draft might lead directly to demographic instability.

Will State Government leave those who have more children to suffer?

The proposed draft also envisions that those who have more than two children will not receive benefits of government welfare schemes. Thus, it means that the state government will have to deny welfare schemes to people who need them the most. The optics of it will be disastrous.

Every study indicates that poorer people have more children than wealthier sections of society. Thus, if state government denies them welfare, then they will have to suffer the brunt of media propaganda against them and it is really extremely difficult to defend against images of poor people suffering because the government would deny them welfare because of the number of babies they have.

Allegations will also follow that they are targeting Muslims on purpose and while the state government may deny them as much as they want but the images of the people in misery will stick. And if the images are of a Hindu community or from specific castes which have popular leaders in other parties, the optics will be even more disastrous. As such, it is inconceivable that all welfare schemes for those with more than two children will be stopped.

A can of worms will be opened by the draft if it is implemented into law, a can of worms that democratically elected governments would generally like to avoid.

Lack of permanence may foil its chances of success

A significant chunk of the populace which believes they must procreate for divine grace might evaluate all options and consider having babies anyway because in a democracy, no law is really permanent.

Thus, members of the Muslim community who want to have more than two babies may choose to have them anyway because no law is permanent. Governments will change one day and it is very likely that when a different party comes to power, they will repeal the law if the draft is implemented and consequently, the incentives and disincentives associated with the same.

Given the transitory nature of democratic governments, Islamic fundamentalists will undoubtedly prefer to endure than to submit. And due to the demographic advantage they will possess going forward, it is likely that before long, they will be in a position to reverse the proposed law.

Thus, there will be no real long term benefits but plenty of adverse consequences due to the demographic imbalance it will engineer.

The case of the blasphemy law

The ‘blasphemy law’ in the Indian Penal Code, section 295A, prohibits speech that could incite communal passion. Consequently, there is punishment associated with the same. But does anyone believe that they will be able to criticise Islam in the same manner as they slander Hinduism if the law is repealed?

Obviously not, because criticism of Islam carries the not-so-subtle threat of violence from Jihadists and fundamentalists. Thus, even if section 295A were to be repealed, it would only embolden Hinduphobes and have no impact on anything else.

Murder and incitement to murder and violence carries the greatest disincentives with strict punishment envisaged in the Indian Penal Code, however, when anyone criticises Islam, threats to commit violence and even murders are committed.

Take the example of Kamlesh Tiwari for example, the disincentives against committing murder did not prevent Jihadists from murdering him. Similarly, if people believe that procreation is religious mandate, they will produce children regardless of the sanctions against it.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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