For a man committed to Hinduism and the celibate life, BJP's Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj is a man who just cannot seem to get his mind off reproduction and Muslims. Maybe he just wrapped his headscarf a little too tight, or maybe the UP election is getting a tad desperate for the BJP, because Sakshi Maharaj was back to his favourite topics again.
Speaking at a rally in Meerut, the godman stated that, "The Hindu is not responsible for the population explosion (in India). It is those who keep 4 wives and produce 40 children." The reference, an obvious slight against the country's Muslim population, has rightly, and predictably, drawn flak from opposition parties.
In response, the BJP MP has today defended his statements by claiming it was not about Muslims, but rather insisting that the focus was on women empowerment. "I said a woman is not a machine. Four wives, 40 children, three divorces, all this is not acceptable."
However, whether viewed through the lens of facts, or even his own statements in the past, Sakshi Maharaj's statements, besides being vile and communal, are also absolutely idiotic.
Muslims and polygamy
From Sakshi Maharaj's initial statement, one thing is clear - India's population problem is the result of Muslims. Not just Muslims, but their heinous practice of having 4 wives, producing 40 kids and getting a triple talaq, presumably to start the whole process again.
It may seem like a believable claim to any person willing to waste their Friday at a Sakshi Maharaj rally, but the assumption is deeply flawed. Polygamy isn't a practise that is exclusive to Islam. While it is allowed according to Muslim personal law, and banned for all others, it has never stopped Indians of all religions from practising it.
The 1961 census, the last to look at marriages according to religion, observed that the percentage of Hindus practising polygamy (5.8%) was higher than the percentage of Muslims doing so (5.7%). While this difference may seem small in percentage figures, in reality the difference is huge given that the population of Hindus in 1961 was 366.5 million while the number of Muslims was pegged at a relatively paltry 46.9 million.
A 1974 survey only reinforced this information, showing again that polygamy was more common (5.8%) among high caste Hindus as opposed to Muslims (5.6%).
The most recent survey to offer this sort of data, the third National Family Health Survey carried out in 2006, showed that, finally, more married Muslim men (2.5%) than Hindu men (1.7%) practised polygamy. Even so, the difference in actual numbers is still hugely skewed towards Hindus.
This isn't even counting instances of polygamy in tribal communities, since they are or aren't really Hindus based on which votebank is being pandered to.
So if Sakshi Maharaj thinks polygamy is the reason behind India's overpopulation (it isn't), he'd do far more for the country if he told his Hindu brethren to go easy on the polygamy.
Muslim women aren't machines, but Hindu women are?
Sakshi Maharaj's justification, once everyone woke up to his statement, was that this was about protecting the women. After all, "a woman is not a machine." Evidently, though, Sakshi Maharaj seems to believe that only Muslim women are delicate flowers in need of protection. Hindu women, on the other hand, are terminator-like machines built to shoot out babies.
Almost exactly two years ago, on 7 January 2015, Sakshi Maharaj implored Hindu women to have 4 children each. Where was his concern for women then? Heck, misogyny is par for the course among his ilk, where was this deshbhakt's concern for India's population? After all, wouldn't India's population be much higher if women from the majority community (and a sizable majority at that) were to start churning out 4 babies each?
Clearly then, the problem isn't with women being ill-treated. It isn't with over population. Or polygamy. Or triple talaq. This saffron hatemonger's problem is Muslims and if the BJP would like to pretend that it cares about the Muslim community, or, for that matter, secularism, it will condemn him for his actions.