Two personalities from different religions had advice on procreation this week. There was VHP leader Pravin Togadia exhorting Hindus to breed to the tune of eight to 10 children per couple. And there was Pope Francis who said that Catholics don’t need to breed like rabbits.
As per a CBC News report, ‘Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines on Monday, Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. But he said most importantly, no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonization” of the developing world.’
He could have been saying this to Togadia but it is obviously meant for his flock. What it does is bring the irony of recent statements by Hindu right-wingers—a Christian institution that proscribes contraception says that it is not a licence to run riot having children while people who supposedly represent Hindus, a religion that is even benign towards abortion, think that the already phenomenal growth in Hindu population is not enough.
As with most statements that zealots make, it gets amusing when the lens is turned towards themselves. So perhaps, like how politicians have to list their assets before they are allowed to run for elections, Togadia will first disclose how many children he has, whether it is fewer than 10 and if he will in the remaining years of his life adhere to his own dictum and hastily make up for the deficit.
It is also funny how the minimum number of children that Hindus should have keeps increasing by the week. Sakshi Maharaj said there should be four. (How many does he have? Probably zero, if he is a sanyasi). Another BJP leader, Shyamal Goswami, then added one more and suggested five would be the right count.
Now Togadia has doubled it to make it a round number. At this rate, Hindus will soon need to have a minimum of a 100 children per couple and someone will argue that it is not so stupid because 5,232 years ago Dhritarashtra and Gandhari had 100 Kauravas using a mixture of IVF and surrogacy.
Even if all Hindus agree to having children in a frenzy, it really will not serve the purpose—there is really no strength in numbers if you are trying to protect your religion.
When Babur came and set up the Mughal Empire, he didn’t come with millions of soldiers; just a small but good cavalry. England was not the most populous country when it became the superpower of the world. It ruled India with just a handful of Brits. Numbers matter in street fights and that is probably the reference that Togadia and Sakshi Maharaj have.
And what are they protecting Hinduism against? If centuries of Muslim and Christian rule have left India still overwhelmingly Hindu, calculate the chances of being swallowed in this day and age. But if this common sense is accepted, what would Togadia do? He would have to go back to being a doctor and who wants to save a few lives when you can save an entire religion that does not want saving?