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Newslaundry misinterprets Economic Advisory Council data on Muslim population growth, falsely claims that a different method was used for Hindus

Chaurasia asserted that the growth rates of Hindu and Muslim populations were compared using different scales, which was incorrect. Both are based on the same time frame and demographic data which made it possible to directly compare the percentage change.

On 15th May, propaganda portal Newslaundry released a new episode of ‘Tippani’ hosted by Atul Chaurasia where they presented assertions regarding the Economic Advisory Council data on Muslim population growth. Chaurasia claimed that the methodology used to represent growth in the Muslim population was different from representing the growth of other religious groups. The interpretations used by Chaurasia and Newslaundry were incorrect and flawed.

Chaurasia claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several news portals used the data to say that the Muslim population share has increased by 43% from 1950 to 2015 while the Hindu population share in total population decreased by 8% and by saying so, they used different methodologies to represent the Economic Advisory Council data.

As per the data available, the Muslim population grew from 9.85% of the total population in 1950 to 14.09% in 2015. It represents an increase of about 43% when calculated as a percentage increase relative to the initial figure which is 14.09/9.84 = 1.43. The detailed calculation is shown in the image below.

Calculating the change in Muslim population share between 1950 and 2015

On the other hand, the Hindu population decreased from 84.68% in 1950 to 78.06% in 2015 which is a 7.8% decrease using the same methodology and calculated as 78.06/84.68 = 0.9218. The detailed calculation is shown in the image below.

Calculating the change in Hindu population share between 1950 and 2015

Both the percentage drop and percentage gain calculations are based on the same methodology. They use the difference between the new value and the original value divided by the original value and then multiply by 100 to convert the result into a percentage. 

Both formulas measure the change relative to the original value and express it as a percentage. For Muslims, the change is 43.2%, which means a gain of 43.2% in the share of the population. On the other hand, the change in Hindu population share is -7.82%. This result is a negative number because the share of Hindus in the total population went down during the same period.

Chaurasia asserted that the growth rates of Hindu and Muslim populations were compared using different scales, which was incorrect. Both are based on the same time frame and demographic data which made it possible to directly compare the percentage change.

He claimed that the percentage change should be calculated by subtracting the 1950 percentage from the 2015 percentage, saying that using the corresponding numbers for Muslims and subtracting 10% from 14%, the result will be a 4% gain. This is a basic arithmetic error that has resulted in a huge difference in results, from 43.% to 4%. The reason is that the percentage differences in percentage figures can’t be obtained by subtracting the old number from the new number. This has to be calculated by obtaining the percentage difference between the two numbers, as shown in the calculations above.

Directly subtracting the numbers gives the absolute change in the percentages. But for statistical analysis, only percentage change is used, not absolute change. The percentage change is a measure of how much the initial value has increased or decreased relative to its original size, which provides a better understanding of the magnitude of the change.

The reason for using the percentage change formula is that it normalizes the change to the initial value, making it easier to compare changes across different scales. It gives the correct picture of the scale of the change in the number.

For example, if A changes from 10% to 25%, and B changes from 60% to 80%, the absolute method will show that A increased by 15% and B increased by 20%, indicating that B increased more. But this is completely misleading and wrong because A grew much faster than B. In this case, A grew by 150%, while B grew by 33.3%.

Atul Chaurasia said that if the same method is used to calculate the change in the population share of Buddhists, it will show an increase of 1520%. That is correct as the report states that the population of Buddhists went up from 0.05% to 0.81% during the same period. Just because it gives a large number does not mean the method is wrong.

While he referred to the Population Foundation of India’s concerns about using different measures, the data from the PM Economic Advisory Council provided a straightforward comparison without any manipulation.

Chaurasia also used the alleged decline in the fertility rate of Muslims to prove that the Muslim population is not increasing as it has been represented by PM Modi and the news portals. However, the usage of the data was also misleading in that case. Similar assertions were made by The Hindu which was debunked by OpIndia.

In a statement during a political rally, PM Modi cautioned the people of India that Congress has planned to snatch away the wealth of poeple and distribute it to “people with more children”, an apparent reference to Muslims. The Hindu came up with a “fact-check” to check the veracity of the claims made by PM Modi. In its ‘fact-check’, The Hindu cited fertility rates among various religious groups over the years to cleverly conclude that the gap between the fertility rates of Muslims and other groups is rapidly narrowing.

The data shows the fertility rate among Hindus dropped from 2.78 in 1998-99 to 1.94 in 2019-21, whereas it dropped from 3.59 to 2.36 for Muslims in the same period. Needless to mention, Muslims had the highest fertility rate among all religious groups.

The data shows the fertility rate among Hindus dropped from 2.78 in 1998-99 to 1.94 in 2019-21, whereas it dropped from 3.59 to 2.36 for Muslims in the same period. Needless to mention, Muslims had the highest fertility rate among all religious groups. But instead of concluding that Muslims had the highest fertility rates among all religious groups, which would have vindicated PM Modi’s remarks, the authors of the article claimed the gap in fertility rates between Muslims and that of other religions is narrowing.

However, this wasn’t the premise on which PM Modi made the remarks. He alluded that Muslims have more number of children than others, which the data validated. Detailed report on fact-checking The Hindu’s “fact-check” can be checked here. Both Chaurasia and The Hindu used the same rhetoric to prove that the Muslim population is not increasing as asserted by PM Modi, but both of them misled the general public while doing so. Interestingly, The Population Foundation of India also tried to play with the Total Fertility Rate (TRF) data to claim the assertion that the Muslim population grew significantly was wrong.

Misleading people about Muslim population growth and its implications

Chaurasia suggested that the increase in the Muslim population was being used politically to create fear and division. While asserting so, he subdued the importance of discussion over demographic change in a country like India which is the only safer place for Hindus worldwide. The data in the Economic Advisory Council report showed a demographic change that has the potential to influence various socio-economic factors and significant population imbalance with possibilities of demographic threat in the coming future. By calling it manipulative data representation, Chaurasia and Newslaundry undermined the dangers of demographic change across the country. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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