Saying that the population of Sikhs has declined in the country is a misreading of the Census by religion. It is the rate of population growth that’s come down. In the larger national goal of population control, Sikhs could rightfully see themselves as being flag-bearers of this wise cause
First, the denial. The Sikh population is not on the decline, an impression that has gained ground as a result of wrong interpretation and reading of the 2011 Census data released on the Indian population by religion. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of Sikhs in India increased by 8.4 per cent.
What has got various sections of the community, especially politicians, so anxious and agitated is the fact that the rate of growth of the Sikh population has slowed down from 11.8 per cent in the period 1991-2001 to 8.4 per cent from 2001-2011. As many other communities have gained relatively fewer privileges that lead to the progressive trend of birth control, their rate of growth has not come down by as much. Consequently, the share of the Sikh population in the national total has come down from 1.9 per cent to 1.7. What needs to be realised is that while every community has been successful in controlling growth, some have recorded greater success.
The reactions of some of the prominent people who have taken it upon themselves to represent or lead the Sikh community are shocking. Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh has repeated his earlier call to fertility, asking for couples to produce four children. SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra has seconded the idea, saying it needs to be made the norm. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has been urged to take steps in this regard.
The SGPC chief, Avtar Singh Makkar, however, has been more circumspect, even honest. He says the size of the Sikh population has political implications. He has perhaps hit the nail on the head — so that’s what it is about! Not social development, or even religious adherence, but the votes. Just as all of the country’s politics is engineered on caste and religion vectors, Punjab has the Sikh population at the heart of its calculations.
Several phenomena have been cited as points of worry by the Sikh leadership. These deserve to be examined individually.