The Indian government’s release last month of data related to the constitution of religious communities in the country has kicked up a storm. With the country’s Hindu population having dipped by 0.7 percent and Muslims having increased by 0.8 percent, some right-wing activists went on to call the difference “alarming.”
“Unfortunately, India, which 68 years ago lost a large part and faced the tragedy of partition, does not seem to be alarmed about the population imbalance,” said Member of Parliament Yogi Adityanath.
Religion-based data is often a hot topic in India, where individuals of different faiths continue to coexist despite certain areas being communally sensitive. According to the newly released data, the proportion of Hindus in India has fallen under 80 percent for the first time since independence while the proportion of Muslims has managed to rise in the same duration.
However, Islamic scholars argued that if closely assessed, one would see how the census proves that the Muslim population has grown at a much slower rate in comparison to previous decades.
“We do not think it is a big increase in number because the population of Hindus is more than 960 million and Muslims only 170 million,” said Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, council member of The All India Muslim Personal Law Board. “There are some fundamentalists who, time and again, are trying to exaggerate it in front of Hindus that the population of Muslims is going up very fast. It is clear from this figure that it is not true.”
The census figures emerged after a significant delay and much speculation that the former government, headed by United Progressive Alliance, which claims to have a secular agenda but is believed to favour India’s largest religious minority, deliberately stalled its release after the data pointed towards a rise in the number of Muslims.
Social analysts have said however, now that the census on religion has emerged, perhaps the government should look beyond mere compartmentalization and work towards the economic development of the entire country.
“Bigger significance would be to look at the backward states, where fertility rates continue to be high irrespective of what their religion is,” said Om Prakash Mathur, senior fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences.
Photo Credits: Guy Faauaa