Amit Upadhyay frequently shares anti-Islam posts on his page, which has around 40,000 followers.
Amit Upadhyay is repeating misinformation online claiming to know why India’s population is increasing by saying that his Muslim neighbors are having more children so Hindu women should have more.
The pharmacist is one of many Hindu social media influencers who have succeeded in capturing a wide audience by publishing false demographic data to claim that India is undergoing a reformation as a Muslim country.
For them, the announcement of their country, the most populous in the world, last month was not a cause for celebration, but a call to action.
“I tell all my Hindu clients that they should have more children to confront the Muslims,” said Upadhyay, who runs a popular Facebook page from his home in Uttar Pradesh state.
“Otherwise, they will become a threat and they will erase the Hindu religion from India,” he told AFP.
Upadhyay frequently shares anti-Islam posts on his page, which has around 40,000 followers.
A pamphlet last April warned of an alleged plot by Muslims to “double their population in order to take over India”.
India has a population of 1.4 billion people, including 210 million Muslims. But the birth rate has declined for everyone in recent decades, in tandem with global trends.
According to the country’s most recent national survey of family health, the total fertility rate is 2.0 children per woman, and it rises marginally for Muslim women to 2.3.
And forecasts issued in the same year by the Pew Research Center said that the number of Muslims in India will reach 311 million by 2050.
Despite their increasing numbers, Muslims will remain a minority in the country, which will have a population of 1.7 billion people in the middle of the century, according to the projections of the American Center.
However, this does not prevent widespread disinformation in the country via Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms claiming that India is on its way to becoming a Muslim-majority country.
In a sarcastic comment welcoming India’s overtaking China in terms of population, the post thanked the Muslim population for “bearing five to ten children” per person.
Another post on Twitter warned that the Hindu religion may soon disappear, and the supposed Muslim majority will replace the country’s constitution with “Islamic law.”
Conspiracy theories claiming an Islamic scheme to ensure the numerical superiority of Muslims in India have been part of Hindu nationalist propaganda for years.
The far right in other countries adopts similar theories, saying that minorities and immigrants “replace” the majority of the population.
These theories have at times received support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
And the representative of the Hindu nationalist party, Rakesh Sinha, submitted in 2019 a bill proposing to limit the number of children in India to two children per home, and his project received the support of 125 other deputies.
This project was withdrawn after accusations by the MP’s critics of targeting Muslims after he gave a speech in which he focused on the disparate birth rates between Hindus and Muslims – something he denied.
These allegations returned to the fore shortly after the United Nations declared last April that India was superior to China in terms of population.
“Hindus marry once and have two children while Muslims marry four times and have so many children that they can form their own cricket teams,” Eshwar Lal, a member of a Hindu nationalist group linked to the ruling party, said in a public address.
That same month, a sermon at a famous pilgrimage site in the foothills of the Himalayas prompted Hindus to launch a demographic counterattack.
Priest Ravindra Puri told a crowd of hundreds at the site that “Hindus have gone from having two children to having one child,” stressing that “this causes an imbalance in the population.”
The priest considered that the solution is for believers to have three children, “one to serve the country, the other to take care of the house, and one to serve the religion to become a priest.”
The former Chairman of the Indian Election Commission, S.I. Qureshi, has written extensively about the spread of misinformation about Muslim birth rates in India.
He said claims that Muslims will soon become the majority religion in India have become a prominent “propaganda” tool for Hindu nationalists.
“They continue to provoke Hindus to have more children by raising the fear that Muslims will outnumber them,” he told AFP, but pointed out, “This will never happen.”