New Delhi: In his annual Vijayadashmi speech in Nagpur, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat called for a comprehensive population control policy, citing “religion-based population imbalance”.
The RSS chief said that countries like East Timor, South Sudan, and Kosovo emerged in the 21st century as a result of “religion-based population imbalance”. The three countries that Bhagwat mentioned have had histories of conflict rooted in ethnicity and religion.
“Seventy-five years ago, we also witnessed the effects of population imbalance. Due to religious imbalance in population, new countries were created, nations were split. To keep the population balance in check is necessary in the interest of the nation”, Bhagwat said.
Here is a look at the history of East Timor, Kosovo, and South Sudan to explain why Bhagwat alluded to them.
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An island country in southeast Asia, East Timor was under the colonial occupation of the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Portuguese controlled it for more than four centuries and were also responsible for the spread of Christianity amongst Timorese. In 1975, it attained freedom from the Portuguese rule through a resistance movement but was soon invaded by Indonesia.
In a UN-supervised referendum held in 1999, 78.5 per cent of the people chose independence from Indonesia. The country was officially recognised by the UN in 2002. The East Timorese population was culturally different from Indonesia’s as the majority of Timorese were Catholics and spoke their own language, Tetun.
Describing the conflict in a paper titled ‘Religious Ironies in East Timor’, scholar Robert William Hefner wrote that in 1975, the East Timorese population was only about 35 to 40 per cent Catholic, and other than “a few Muslims in coastal towns”, the majority on non-Christians practiced “ancestral and ethnic” religions.
According to him, this changed after the Indonesian invasion.
“Most of the troops sent to Timor by Indonesian authorities… were Muslim. So too were most of the poor Indonesian migrants who came to Timorese towns in search of a better life. The result was that indigenous Timorese came to identify Indonesians and the occupation with Islam. This perception had a galvanizing effect on Timorese society. By the early 1990s, the proportion of Timorese professing to be Catholic had surged to more than 90 percent”.
South Sudan, which has a majority Christian population, became independent from the Muslim-dominated north Sudan after a referendum in 2011 that ended after years of civil war. The war continued for 22 years between the government in the predominantly Muslim, Arabic-speaking north Sudan and people from the south, with mostly Christian and other traditional religions.
After Sudan gained independence from its colonisers (first Egyptian and later British) in 1956, the government tried to create rules which undermined the Christian religion, for instance, nationalising missionary schools, eliminating Sunday holiday and keeping Friday (Jumma) as the weekly holiday and expelling Christian missionaries.
Kosovo is an ethnic Albanian territory that was once part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro), rump of the old Yugoslavia that saw many of its constituent republics declaring independence in early 1990s. Kosovo was an autonomous province in Serbia. In 1998-99, the Kosovo Liberation Army fought against Serbian forces until NATO intervened and forced the latter to withdraw from Kosovo, which ultimately declared independence in 2008.
Serbia refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Ethnic Albanians, who are majority Muslims, see Kosovo as their country and accuse Serbia of oppression. Serbs are predominantly Christians.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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