Demystifying data on the Census of Religion

Rajat Kain

Eid-Delhi-2With the much discussed census figures on the religion-wise breakup of the country’s population released, the speculations are only rife if the data will lead to any political manoeuvres. Charges are also being made that the data, which was lying shelved for more than four years after it was compiled, may have been made to see the light of the day for reasons entirely political.

The data already has had a brush with several varied views after it showed the growth, even though very thin, of the Muslim population. Those speculative apprehensions, however, have been dismissed at best a rumour by the experts. Even though the population growth of Muslims registered an increase of 0.8%, it may take more than few centuries for its population to touch equivalence with the majority mark. And that too if we bring into picture the entirely theoretical concept of Ceteris Paribus, Latin for ‘all things remaining same’.

But dismissing even that preposition, experts argue that Indian population may reach what they term as a demographic momentum by 2050, after which the population will cease to increase or may perhaps increase at a very small rate. However, the break-up of religious community may not be very different from what we have seen in 2011 census.

“There may be an increase in the population of Muslims but it may not be more than 17 percent of the total population in 2050,” opined Prof. Ram B Bhagat of International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai.

Experts also argue that with better education and vying for better resources, the growth rate among Muslims might even come down.

As per the data, India now has 96.63 crore Hindus which makes a 79.8 percent of its total population of 121.09 crores, and 17.22 crore Muslims, which comes to 14.2 percent of the population. The biggest talking point of the data seems to be Muslims registering a moderate increase by 0.8 percentage point, while Hindus registered a miniscule fall of 0.7 percentage points.

Muslims, though recorded a decadal growth rate of 24.6 per cent between 2001 and 2011, it is dubbed as a slowest rate since 1961. In the last five preceding decades it grew at 32.48, 30.92, 30.78, 32.87 and 29.52 in percentage point.

The trend has certainly shown a dipping rate.

The data also reflects at another perspective that is yet to be explored to its fullest. Interestingly, the number of those who wished not to state their religion grew four-fold from 7 lakhs to 28 lakhs in last one decade. This becomes important for if the larger fraction of this pie belonged to one religion, it will be decisive enough to swing the percentage point in the concluding picture.

Now, with the data on the religion-wise breakup becoming a talking point and generating some speculations in certain quarters; it can well be believed a precursor to what several political parties are pressing hard for – data on the caste census.