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The Big Picture – Census Religion data: What do the trends indicate?

The Big Picture – Census Religion data: What do the trends indicate?



The much delayed and also much awaited religion – wise census data has finally been released. The data shows that the population of Hindus has grown from 82.7 crores in 2001 to 96.63 crores in 2011, indicating 16.67% growth. Meanwhile, the Muslim population has grown from 13.8 crores to 17.2 crores, indicating a growth of 24.6%. Minority Sikh population also witnessed a substantial dip in their population growth rate from over 18% (1991-2001 decade) to 8.4% during 2001-2011. As a result, Sikh population as a proportion of total population has witnessed a decline of 0.2% from 1.9% in 2001 to 1.7%. The good news is that the growth rates of both Hindus and Muslims, in comparison to the previous decade, have come down.

The growth rate of Hindu population has witnessed a decline from 20.3% during 1991-2001 to 17.7% during 2001-2011, resulting in Hindu population in the country dipping below 80% to 79.8%. The religion-wise data released indicated that the proportion of Christian and Jain communities remained static at 2.3% and 0.4%, respectively. The proportion of Buddhists, in contrast, has witnessed a marginal dip from 0.8% (2001) to 0.7% (2011 census). The data also reveal that there is certain level of acceptance of family planning programmes by all the religions. The sex ratio among Muslims now stands at 951 females for every 1,000 males, substantially better than 936 in 2001, while among Hindus, it is 939 females for every 1,000 males, a slight improvement over the 2001 value of 931.

The share of Hindus over the previous five decades — between 1951 i.e. post-partition and 2001 — dropped 3.65 percentage points from 84.1% to 80.45% of the total population. Again in absolute terms, the Hindu population more than doubled (172% increase) from 30.36 crore to 82.75 crore during the 50 years till 2001. The drop in share of Hindus, due to a steady dip in the rate of growth of the Hindu population, comes on the back of rising education and income levels of the majority community.

The Census 2011 data shows that since independence, the share of Hindus has dropped by 5.75 percentage points while the share of Muslims has risen by slightly more than 4 percentage points. According to the 1951 census, Hindus comprised 84.1 per cent of the population post partition, after the inflow of Hindus from Pakistan and the outflow of Muslims at partition changed in the country’s demography. Hindus comprised just about 66% of the population of India before partition.

Experts believe that census data is neutral data, whereas its impacts are not neutral in nature. It has great sociological impact, which needs to be judged and evaluated. These data indicate that for the first time Hindus have come down below the psychological mark of 80%. Sociologically, society is constituted not only by religion, there are other variables too like class, caste etc. While looking at demographics data it is easy to look from a communal point view, as the data is presented from a communal perspective. Experts are of the view that the data has to be segregated based on socio – economic and regional variables.