The share of Hindus in India’s population has shown the sharpest dip in a decade since Independence and has dropped below 80 per cent.
According to figures of the religion census of 2011, yet to be officially released, Hindus comprised 78.35 per cent of the total population of 121.05 crore, compared with 80.45 per cent of the total population in 2001. In absolute terms, however, the Hindu population increased 14.5 per cent from 82.75 crore to 94.78 crore during the period (2001-11).
The 2011 religion census data also shows that the share of Muslims in the population has risen 80 basis points (one basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point) from 13.4 per cent in 2001 to 14.2 per cent with some border states showing a high increase. This decadal increase in share, however, is lower than the 1.7 percentage points increase registered in the previous decade, 1991-2001.
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In absolute terms, the number of Muslims increased 24.4 per cent to 17.18 crore from 13.8 crore during the period 2001-11. And during the previous five decades — 1951 to 2001 — their share rose from 9.8 per cent to 13.4 per cent.
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 per cent to 80.45 per cent of the total population. Again in absolute terms, the Hindu population more than doubled (172 per cent 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.
Last Wednesday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that the religion data of census 2011 would be released soon. The data was ready in January 2014 but the UPA government, facing a resurgent BJP, took the decision not to release the data ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. In normal course, the data from the religion census is released within three years of the census enumeration exercise being completed. By this yardstick, the data should have been out by March 2014.
The share of other religious groups like Sikhs and Christians in the total population remained steady at a little over 2 per cent each, roughly in the same range as in the 2001 census.
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 per cent of the population of India before partition.
Registrar General of India C Chandramouli briefed the Home Minister again on Thursday about the findings of the religion census before it is finally released. However, home ministry sources said with the dates for Assembly elections in Delhi and bypolls in six states already announced and the poll code of conduct in place, the announcement could be pushed to next month or even to after the Budget session of Parliament. Chandramouli, the officer who has dealt with the religion data since it was collated in 2011, was given a three-month extension in December 2014.