Statistics with a saffron flavour: How to read ex-DGP Senkumar's views on Muslims, Christians

From ISIS to conversion to birth rates, Senkumar’s views seem heavily influenced by WhatsApp forwards and Sangh literature.
Statistics with a saffron flavour: How to read ex-DGP Senkumar's views on Muslims, Christians
Statistics with a saffron flavour: How to read ex-DGP Senkumar's views on Muslims, Christians
Written by:

Recently-retired Kerala DGP (Law and Order) TP Senkumar has stirred up a hornet’s nest with an interview published in Samakalika Malayalam magazine. Apart from certain political statements that made instant news, what drew everyone’s attention were his prejudicial statements against Muslims and Christians in a language that closely mirrored the Sangh.

TP Senkumar has had an eventful year in which he was reinstated as the Kerala DGP by the Supreme Court on April 24, more than a year after he was unceremoniously transferred out by the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government within a week of its swearing-in on May 30, 2016.

The Supreme Court verdict, coming after he lost his case in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the Kerala High Court, was widely seen as natural justice being upheld. Senkumar was celebrated as an officer with a spine (Or “an extra bone” as a dialogue in a Suresh Gopi film goes) that brought a powerful government to its knees.

As political perceptions go, Senkumar seems to have completed a full circle. According to noted commentator Advocate Jayasankar, Senkumar was seen as a Left-sympathiser a decade and a half ago. But during his stint under the previous UDF government, he went after political murders allegedly committed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kannur, especially the gruesome cold-blooded murder of renegade Marxist TP Chandrasekharan in 2012. He also conducted a thorough probe into the murders of Muslim League’s Ariyil Shukoor and RSS’ Kathiroor Manoj.

Senkumar’s transfer in 2016 and the perfunctoriness of the act came to be seen as political witch hunting against an honest and upright Police officer. The opposition UDF, led by the Congress, had taken up cudgels on behalf of Senkumar and it was also seen as a testament to Senkumar’s probity when Prashant Bhushan and Dushyant Dave appeared for him in the case.

But his prejudiced statements in the interview on Love Jihad, conversion and the child birth rate among Muslims came as a rude shock, not only to the principal opposition, but also to the civil society that had backed him to the hilt. In fact, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already made several overtures to him after his retirement – which was barely ten days ago. One can only wonder if anti-minority rhetoric is a necessary qualification to join the BJP.

To those people who might ask what exactly was communal about his statements, let us examine some of his specific points.

“When we talk about the Islamic State, many Muslims will turn around and ask – But what about the RSS?” he asked. His answer was instructive. “You must understand that RSS cannot be compared to ISIS. I am talking about religious extremism that goes against national spirit.”

It wasn’t the non-comparison between the RSS with the ISIS that was problematic, but the certificate of “national spirit” extended to the RSS. When commentators compare the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) with the ISIS, it’s usually done at a theoretical level. The Hindutva fountainhead’s idea of a Hindu Rashtra ( as opposed to the secular state enshrined in our Constitution) closely parallels the equally barbaric Islamic Sharia.

Senkumar also sought to validate the oft-quoted Sangh Parivar theory of Love Jihad with his own set of arguments.

But what took the cake was a blatantly communal statement couched in the larger opinion. “Radicalisation can be controlled with the help of good people from the Muslim community. There are good people among Muslims too”.

His statements on Jihad and ISIS need not be entirely dismissed as it came in the aftermath of 21 Keralites joining and perishing with the so-called Islamic state that is now officially relegated to less than a square mile in its erstwhile stronghold of Mosul. But his statements – which seem to make good people among Muslims an exception rather than a rule – expose a deeply prejudiced officer who served the Kerala Police for more than three decades.

Senkumar was also quoted as saying that he found statements like ‘Muslims are being killed on account of the Cow’ in an Eid address extremely provocative. He went on to speak at length about the negative consequences of such rhetoric. It seems, Senkumar hasn’t been updated on the murders committed in the name of the Holy Cow in the rest of the country since 2014. And more importantly, he seems to have missed all the rabidly communal statements emanating from the Sangh “fringe elements” that are increasingly going mainstream.

There was also a statistic that Senkumar quoted from the Kerala government’s annual vital statistic report published in February 2017. On child births in the state for 2015, Senkumar was quoted saying that if you break up the live child births in the state on the basis of religion, Muslims account for 42%. (The exact figure is 41.45%). Now, statistics can always be selectively used. So, it is important to examine this figure more closely.

According to the 2011 census, the population of Hindus in the state stood at 54.7%, Muslims at 26.6% and Christians at 18.4%. This can be compared with the 1951 census which had 61.5% Hindus, 17.5% Muslims and 20.9% Christians. A study carried out on the demographic and socio-economic profile of religious communities in Kerala by Prof KC Zackariah of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) shows that by extrapolating this figure to 2051, the population of Hindus will fall marginally below fifty percent at 49.3% even as the corresponding figure for Muslims should reach 34.6% (And Christians will stand at 16.1%).

But the study clearly rules out the Muslim population overtaking the Hindu population in the state even at a later date. Why? Because, there is a concept called the “replacement level rate” in the Total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of children born per woman – at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next, without any migration.

This rate is roughly 2.1 children per woman for most countries, though it can slightly vary with mortality rates. And the same study shows that the TFR of Muslim women at 2.6% (According to the 2001 Census) should come down to 2.1% by 2025-2030 at the current rate, by which time the growth of population among Muslims in the state will start falling.

By selectively quoting a figure or statistic out of context, Senkumar has only given an impetus to the Sangh Parivar’s scaremongering of a demographic overhaul in the state.

Finally, let’s come to Senkumar’s attack on the Christian community. He argues that the Christian population has not dropped by much, despite registering a lower birth rate than both the Muslims and the Hindus only because they still engage in conversion. He credits Christians for not being in conflict with anyone else, and the absence of “Christian Love Jihad” to their “openness.”  In the same vein, he goes on to criticise them for the very same reason – saying that Christians copy lots of things from the Hindus, including certain kinds of chants. This is another contention of the Sangh Parivar, especially outside Kerala.

In short, TP Senkumar’s statements seem to be heavily influenced by Whatsapp forwards and Sangh literature. His selective quoting of a statistic doesn’t really salvage the narrative in any way and in fact, actually compounds it. It should only be a matter of time before Senkumar takes up the Saffron bucket challenge, if this interview is any indication.

Note: The author is a contributor and the views expressed are personal. 

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute