Census 2011: The Religious Imbalance Worsens

The long-awaited religion data for the Census of 2011 has not been published yet. But it seems that some journalists have been allowed to have a quick look at the figures. Consequently, many stories have appeared in the press; already several articles have been written to reassure the Hindus that the share of Muslims in the population of India has not really changed by too much and there is no serious demographic imbalance developing between different communities in India. But the reported figures seem anything but reassuring.

Muslims grow by 24.4 per cent against national average of 17.7 per cent

According to the reports, the Muslim population has grown by 24.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Average growth of the total population during the decade has been only 17.7 per cent; the growth of Hindus is much lower at only 14.5 per cent. The reports and various articles try to convey that the Muslim growth may be higher compared to the average, yet their rate of growth has declined substantially in comparison to the previous decade, when the Muslim population had grown by 29.50 per cent. But what is critical in maintaining the demographic balance between different communities is not the absolute rate of growth but the gap between their respective growth rates. The Muslim rate of growth in 2011 is nearly 38 per cent above the national average; in 2001, the gap between the growth of Muslims and the national average was somewhat lower at 36.8 per cent. The rate of growth of Hindus, on the other hand, has declined about 20 per cent below the national average. This is a matter of great concern. We shall discuss the large decline in the rate of growth of Hindus in greater detail towards the end of this article.

Muslims gain 0.8 percentage points in their share

Another figure highlighted in the press reports is the rise of 0.8 percentage points in the share of Muslims in the population; they form 14.2 per cent of the population in 2011 compared to 13.4 per cent in 2001. The reports suggest that this increase of a mere 0.8 percentage points is small and not a matter of any concern. But this level of increase in the share of a significantly large minority community can hardly be considered small. It implies an increase of 8 percentage points in a century; that kind of change is large enough to drastically alter the social, political and geographical balance between communities.

It is also suggested that the imbalance in the growth rate of Muslims and others is a temporary phenomenon that is unlikely to continue for long. But there is nothing in the data to suggest any correction of the imbalance. In fact, if the figure of 0.8 percentage point rise in the share of Muslims during the last decade is indeed correct, then it would be the third time in a row that they would have registered such a gain. The share of Muslims had risen by almost exactly the same 0.8 percentage points between 1981-1991 and 1991-2001; their share was 11.8 per cent in 1981, 12.6 per cent in 1991 and 13.4 per cent in 2001; it is 14.2 per cent now in 2011.

In the earlier decades, the rise in the share of Muslims used to be much smaller, but even in that period a clear rising trend was visible from decade to decade. The share was 10.5 per cent in 1951, 10.7 per cent in 1961, 11.2 per cent in 1971 and 11.8 per cent in 1981.

It is clear from the above that the rise of 0.8 percentage points in the share of Muslims in the population of India is a continuation of an established long-term trend that has continued at least since Independence. In the sixty years between 1951 and 2011, the share of Muslims has increased from 10.5 to 14.2 per cent; two-thirds of this increase has happened in the last three decades alone.


Incidentally, in the period prior to Partition and Independence, the share of Muslims in the part of undivided India that forms the Indian Union now had not increased significantly, and it was actually declining in the part that now forms Pakistan; the share was rising significantly only in the part that now forms Bangladesh. But after Partition, the Muslim share has been rising both in the Indian Union and Bangladesh, very rapidly in the latter. Pakistan, in any case, had become almost entirely Muslim after Partition.

Longer term trend of increase in Muslim share in undivided India

However in undivided India as a whole, the share of Muslims has risen continuously and consistently throughout the period for which the Census data is available. Their share was 20 per cent at the time of the first Census in 1881; it had risen to 24.3 per cent in 1941 before Partition and further to 30.4 per cent in 2001. On the basis of the available figures for 2011, we estimate the share of Muslims in the population of undivided India in 2011 at around 31.8 per cent. Thus the trend of increase in Muslim share in the population seems even stronger for undivided India.

What is critical in maintaining the demographic balance between different communities is not the absolute rate of growth but the gap between their respective growth rates.

Christians form another 2 per cent of the population of undivided India according to official sources. According to the Christian sources, the share of Christians in the population of undivided India is nearer 4 per cent. Christians and Muslims together thus already account for 36 per cent of the population of undivided India. Their combined share in 1881 was only around 21 per cent. The corresponding decline of more than 15 per cent in the share of the religions of Indian origin in the course of 130 years is indeed unusual.

Larger Muslim gains in specific parts of India

Another important aspect of the religion figures of the Census of 2011 that have appeared in the press is the very high growth of Muslims in some of the States of India. According to these reports, the share of Muslims has increased sharply in many parts of India, including in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Goa, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Haryana.

Muslims now form 34.2 per cent of the population of Assam, which is 3.2 percentage points higher than their share of 30.9 per cent in 2001. This comes on top of gains of about 2 percentage points registered in each of the decades of 1971-81 and 1981-91 and of 2.5 percentage points in 1991-2001. In 1971, the share of Muslims in the population of Assam was only 24.6 per cent; nearly 10 percentage points below the share counted in 2011.

The real story of what is happening to the religious demography of Assam shall be known only when we get the disaggregated data for the districts and taluks. Earlier data indicated that several districts of Assam had become predominantly Muslim and many taluks were on the way to becoming exclusively Muslim. In such taluks, the absolute population of Hindus counted in 2001 was below the count of 1991. Given the surprisingly large rise in the share of Muslims in the State as a whole between 2001 and 2011, Hindus from many other taluks may have been compelled to flee from their homes.

Similarly there are also several districts and taluks in other parts of the country, especially in West Bengal, Kerala and Haryana, where Hindus have been reduced to an unviable minority. The impact of the rapid rise in the Muslim share in these States on the Hindus of those vulnerable districts and taluks within them can be assessed only when the detailed disaggregated data are formally released.

Given these trends, the need for the formal release of the complete Census data on religion has become even more urgent.

The substantial rise in the share of Muslims in the population of Kerala is interesting for another reason. In Kerala literacy rates counted in Census 2011 are above 90 per cent for both men and women and Muslim literacy rates there have not been much lower than the average. The much higher rate of growth of Muslims in this State seems to indicate that the gap in the rate of growth of Muslims and the others is not related to literacy alone. In fact, according to the figures of 2001, the literacy rate amongst Muslim women was higher than the average in as many 10 major States of India. In some of these States, the difference in female literacy in favour of Muslims was as high as 10 percentage points. Yet in all these States, the growth rate of Muslims was also higher than the average.

Data on Christians has not been reported yet

While some glimpse has been given of the rise in the share of Muslims in the population of India as a whole and of several States, the reports have almost nothing to say about the share of Christians. From past trends, Christians are likely to record major gains in several parts of the country, including in the Northeast, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Within the Northeast, the data for Arunachal Pradesh and certain districts of Meghalaya and Assam, where rapid Christianisation had been happening in the earlier couple of decades, would be of particular interest. Census of 2001 also indicated increase in the Christian numbers in several newer areas. Detailed disaggregated data of the Census of 2011 alone shall give a clear picture of the further progress of Christianity in those parts.

Decline in the share of Hindus

A surprising aspect of the data that has been reported is the sharp decline in the share of Hindus in the total population of India. According to these reports, the proportion of Hindus has declined by 2.1 percentage points, from 80.45 per cent in 2001 to 78.35 per cent in 2011. Since the share of Muslims has increased by only 0.8 percentage points, what accounts for the larger decline in the share of Hindus? We do not have the detailed figures yet. But the large decline in the Hindu share is most likely to be associated with a spurt in the number of persons counted under “Other Religions and Persuasions”.

In every Census, concerted efforts have been made by certain groups to persuade different communities, particularly among the Scheduled Tribes of India, to get counted outside the Hindu fold. As a consequence of such efforts, 6.6 million Indians were counted under the category of Other Religions and Persuasions (ORPs) in 2001; the number in 1991 was less than 3.3 million. The decline of 2.1 percentage points in the share of Hindus in the count of 2011 suggests that the number of ORPs in this Census may have spurted threefold.

When the Census of 2011 was being conducted, intense campaigns were organised in several parts of India to dissuade people from referring to themselves as Hindus. There was even a campaign to make the Census authorities assign a new religious category in the questionnaire for this purpose. These campaigns seem to have achieved conspicuous success. Detailed disaggregated data on religion shall give us further insight into how this process has actually unfolded in the Census of 2011.

Critical Concerns

The reported figures of the religion data of Census 2011 thus raise several critical concerns. The figures show that:

(a) the gap between the rate of growth of Muslims and the national average has remained high and unchanged

(b) there has been a significant rise in the share of Muslims in the population of the country in conformity with a continuing and worrisome long-term trend

(c) in several States, the growth of share of Muslims in the population has been much higher than the national average, indicative of the development of several predominantly Muslim pockets; and

(d) there has been a sharp decline in the share of Hindus in the total population. We yet do not have any figures for the growth of Christians, which could raise further concerns.

Given these trends, the need for the formal release of the complete Census data on religion has become even more urgent. We shall be able to fully appreciate the extent of change in the religious profile of different parts of India only when the detailed religious figures disaggregated up to at least the taluk level are made available. To understand the phenomenon of rising numbers of ORPs and perhaps also of Christians, it would be also important to have the detailed religion data for the Scheduled Tribes of India. Given the critical importance of these figures for understanding the changing social, political and geographical balance within India, the Census should consider making this data part of the Primary Census Abstracts (PCA), so that the religion figures become available up to the town and village level and can be correlated with various other socio-economic aspects of the population.

Dr. J.K. Bajaj is Director, Centre for Policy Studies and author of several books including the landmark “Indian Demographics.”
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  • Arun Jyothi Nivas

    the person who wrote this article mean to say that if hindus decrease nation is in danger.i need to remind him that indian culture or india is one of poorest n most underdeveloped nations in the world.no 1 in tb..high rank in hiv,malaria,etc n very low per capita income n living standards..change can be for good,at times.what is there to boast-only the legacy of our great leaders-who envisaged secularism as the new face of india..it doesn’t matter u belong to which religion,but what u think,speak n do..those who nothing to lighten this world,like the person who wrote this article will try to segregate n divide ppl,based on communal issues,to increase their mental backwardness,to give themselves some value,as they r not creative enough to do something positive..what a shame ..whether someone’s share up by 0.8 or goes down ..doesn’t matter at all..what is imp is that everyone should together..support n stand not only for themselves but also for others..pls don’t take blunder articles like this seriously..what a same.

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  • Mukesh kumar

    If I say truly that Hindus has started to avoid their religion values and in the race of modern era they are decreasing the fertility rate.

  • Sam108

    One more step along the road to becoming like a Pakistan… a country that nobody envies. Fools who have no grasp of demographics try to play it down, the reality of the situation has been played many times and your heads remain firmly implanted in your nether regions.

  • jesusvegdotcom

    Interesting, wealthy and middle class Hindus refuse to donate money for development, refuse to pay lower class workers a fair wage or salary so they can get out of poverty, and wealthy Indians residing in the US and the UK refuse to send money back to develop India spending it on their big homes and luxury cars. Then they act surprise when lower income villagers convert to other religions. You only have yourself to blame.

    Also, so what if the Muslim population went up by a few percentage points? They are still a minority. Stop trying to paint Hindus out to be an oppressed minority when they are clearly in the majority.


      Your user name is a great measurement of your knowledge, but for the others who end up making the mistake of believing you I will leave this link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj8eFu72_fc

      • jesusvegdotcom

        Sorry but you’re wrong. Chinese send money back to their home countries as do Mexicans in the US. Indians on the other hand in comparison to other ethnic groups tend to send much less money back to India. Maybe you don’t live in the US so you’re not aware of how Indian Hindus are here in America. There was an article where people complained about paying $10 for Karva Chauth to temples! These are the same people driving up in Mercedes Benzes and living in $200,000 homes!

      • jesusvegdotcom


        This wasn’t just in Freemont. Other major cities that had temples rich Hindus complained about having to give a donation. Rich people in general simply don’t care about helping the downtrodden or donating to religious causes unless they get something out of it.

        • TRUTHSH4LL

          They didn’t complaint about donations, a Hanuman temple in India receives more money than what colgate earns in a year. They were complaining because those donations were being levied on them, there is a difference in asking and demanding.

    • RJ

      This is not about conversion alone but illegal immigration and higher birth rates amongst certain religious groups. Its all about politics.

  • munusamy ganapathy

    The reported figures of the religion data of Census 2011 thus raise several critical concerns. The figures show that:

    (a) the gap between the rate of growth of Muslims and the national average has remained high and unchanged

    The main concern in this census is the alarming decline in 0-6 child sex ratio which corresponds with the rise of sangh parivar across the country. Its a hard fact that more the power to sangh parivar more the female foeticide in that state whether its the hindutva laboratory off gujarat or rajasthan or delhi or haryana ,the recently acquired jewel in the crown.

    Does the author want muslims to perform same amount of female foeticide,detest remarriage of widows,separated women to have a low growth rate like hindus.

    If we take the 0-6 sex ratio of developed countries ,it will be seen that muslims too perform female foeticide but on a lower scale.Strict action against female foeticide resulting in similar sex ratios for all religions will solve all the worries but Its very saddening and irritating that real threats to india,hindus,humanity revealed by the census figures is conveniently ignored as the support core base of sangh parivar are the worst culprits when it comes to female foeticide and nonissues are highlighted as alarming threats

    • ccc
      • munusamy ganapathy

        He talks more foolishly than the author of this article and interprets the gender sex ratio in 1901 and 1991 in the most irrational way.

        There was no facilities like ultrasound technolgies in those days to know the sex of the foetus except religious babas and superstitions/time of conception to have male foetus etc and hence they couldnt kill girl foetuses in 1901 like they do today.The talk of urban and rural too is based on the same but his argument holds true if you replace hindus by christians as muslims as they kill very less when compared to hindus whether its urban or rural.

        The average life survival rate was very poor for both male and female in 1901 with no medical facilities and hence the gender sex ratio of 972 which he says was the best in world in those days without any proof.

        Just supplement hindu population between 1991 and 2001 by keeping hindu 0-6 sex ratio as 950 of muslims which increases hindu population by more than 2.5 million or 964 which increases the hindu population by 4 million making the hindu growth rate jump and come closer to muslim growth rate

      • munusamy ganapathy

        Its not Indians kill girl children as he cleverly manipulates to cover the killings of religious hindus as majority of killings are done by hindus who are miles ahead of others along with jains and sikhs and even within hindus its the upper caste hindus who kill the maximum and there is gross difference between the states where hindutva forces are in power and where they are negligiblelike kerala ,TN,west bengal etc

        What is the reason behind 0-6 sex ratio of 964 for christians and 925 for hindus,886 for gujarat while 960 and 946 for kerala and TN and even within gujarat below 850 for uppercaste hindus and 934 for muslims and above that for tribals.Why vegetarians across haryana/rajasthan/gujarat/bihar kill more female foetuses than beef eating people. Is vegetarianism inherently patriarchial and against women

  • munusamy ganapathy

    Its funny to read the article full of halftruths and sad if the people are really concerned with reduced growth rate as they miss the elephant in the room

    The major cause for comparative low growth rate of hindus is female foeticide. quiet a bit of statistics have been quoted and compared except the gender sex ratio and more particularly0-6 sex ratio.

    The 0-6 sex ratio for muslims across India was 950 while it was 925 for hindus,964 for christian and 976 for others. Just apply the muslim 0-6 sex ratio for hindu child births and you will rise by millions to hindu population over a decade who have been killed by the religious hindus.Even the 925 for hindus is courtesy pseudosecular dominated states,tribals and other real quotawallaahs and excluding them the fanatic sangh supporting block among hindus are the worst when it comes to killing girl children in womb.


    The other reason for low growth rate in comparison to muslims is the religious beleifs against wiidow remarriage,delayed age of marriage due to manglik and other superstitious beleifs.Its hard to see even a middle aged widow among muslims while young widows are in lakhs among hindus across the country.The census in 1881 reports low growth rate among hindus compared to muslims inspite of both having neither access to family planning methods or beleif in it due to presence of lakhs of child widows and millions of widows and separated women in hindus unlike muslims where it was rare to see a widow/separated women who stayed single.

    • RJ

      The issue of female foeticide does need to be urgently addressed. And yet, your comments linking that to the census is intellectually dishonest and a half truth. The states where Hindus have the least proclivity to female foeticide and are the most progressive – Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Kashmir have witnessed the highest drop in the Hindu population. The Hindu population has also declined in other countries where they form a significant percentage where female foeticide is not an issue. Your criticism of the author is misplaced.

      • munusamy ganapathy

        Its surprising to see the confident assertion that female foeticide is not responsible for the low growth rate among hindus.
        Take the sex ratiio of 0-6 of muslims of 950 or christians (its for the entire country and we are discussing for the whole of India)and apply it to hindus and the growth rate of hindus too will be nearing that of muslims and the shortfall too is courtesy hindu religious practise of illtreatment of widows and rigid ideas against widow remarriage.

        The author is parroting plain lies that- high population growth being inversely proportional to increasing literacy levels is untrue for muslims by quoting muslim growth in kerala.He has to compare the growth rate of muslims in kerala with hinduus in bimaru states to know how increased literacy reduces population growth rate.Relative growth rate comparison within kerala where muslims have more growth(which is still far less than what a hindu household has in bimaru states) is due to delayed age of marriage of hindu girls, more single women,wiodws,divorcess with less chances of remarriage among hindus because of superstitious beleifs in manglik,increased demands for dowry,more alcoholics among hindu men leading to low fertility and not any planned increase by muslims as the author wants to portray.

        Internal migration of muslims to areas where they are significantly present is happening across the country as they have been demonised successfully by the parivar and marginalised from the political process as in the case of gujarat where inspite of being 9% of the population they are yet to even get a MLA seat to contest from the ruling BJP leave alone MP in loksabha ,rajyasabha,part of cabinet in the last 20 years. and this trend courtesy parivar demonisation is far worrying as it will create only more number of owaisis and not arif mohammed khans

  • Mohan

    CCC, you do not realize the gravity of the situation that the author has highlighted.

    India is losing its Hindu character, its Hindu population. This happened in part during the last 10 years when Sonia Gandhi was at the helm. It is illustrative of the politics of secularism which is another word for the roll back of Hinduism; the division of Hinduism into castes, languages and tribes; and the parallel consolidation of Islam and Christianity in India.

    Hindus were 85% at independence. Its now 78.35% if media reports are to be believed.
    Muslims who were 9.7% at independence are now 14.2%. Its a huge jump.

    Without Hinduism, where is India, where is Bharat? We should not quibble about Bharat versus India.

    There is another issue that I would like to raise. Behind every facade of anti-Hinduism be it the Dravidian movement, be it Maoism, be it the more virulent ideology of Dalit assertiveness (as opposed to the mainstream Dalit movement), be it the move to declare scheduled tribes as non-Hindu, be it the more virulent neo-Buddhist movement or be it the revolts in India’s North East, there is a Christian sponsor. Secularism is but stealth-Christianity as witnessed in the last decade.

    We need to face up to the challenge that the secular order by definition is anti-Hindu and pro-Christian. The debate that the Shiv Sena raised on the Preamble to the Constitution is a valid one. Lets remove the words “secularism” and “socialism” that was introduced literally at gun point by Indira Gandhi during her infamous emergency rule where opposition had been imprisoned.

    India has to be gradually re-Hinduized through grass roots mobilization, winning more state level elections and consolidating power for the next 15 years.

    I hope India Facts and Shri Bajaj continues to cover the census results in the coming months..

    • jesusvegdotcom

      India is losing its HIndu character not because of outside minorities but b/c many Hindus don’t practice their relgion. So many rich INdians around the world who refuse to help India so many weatlhy Hindus who don’t pay their workers fairly and refuse to combat poverty. Our biggest enemy is ourselves and those who don’t pratice dharmic values.

      • RJ

        You are making sweeping generalizations. As if Christians or Muslims pay their workers fairly!

        • jesusvegdotcom

          you are correct, there are plenty of christians and muslims who don’t pay their workers fairly. and when they complain about how religious minorities are destroying their countries, you and i should make it a point that they are their own worst enemy, not some small group of people who have less power than the majority.

    • Arun Jyothi Nivas

      gandhi is the father of this nation n he did not think like u did..hindu popln is about 85 crores..is that not enough..if minorities inc nothing will happen..kerala is a classic example..health statistics,labour wages,literacy is the highest in india -a place where christians r about 20% n muslim 26.6% n kerala will remain as the only state in india where the bjp can never ever come to power..kerala will serve as a model in secularism n progress for the whole country..we will celebrate onam,vishu n christmas together..communal fascists just shut the hell up..ok

  • ccc

    for India it’s doesn’t matter whether hindus are 80% or there are no hindus at all but the question is, what is the ideal religious balance vis-a-vis Islam for Bharat ?

    • Radha Rajan

      If it doesnt matter if we are 80% or if we are not, then how does it matter what is ideal religious balance. After we are all gone, the balance will be among the Abrahamic cults. the only comforting thought is we hindus wont be around when armageddon happens.

      • ccc

        I don’t consider India and Bharat as the same nation, Bharat is the nation colonized by Indians. In India hindu doesn’t have political power, and for Indians hindu tradition is the thing to rebel against, why because during the last 1300 years while some hindus have outrightly converted to non-hindu cults and the rest have adopted and rationalized the most horrible of abhramic practices, some of which never existed in India like women purdah and some were waning like animal slaughter for eating with the realization of “tat twam asi”, so now every hindu in India has the same abhramic attitude towards other creatures that muslims have. What they do in arabic to allah, we do in sanskrit to xyz etc. etc.etc. In bharat all creatures would have equal rights and religion would’ve been an unknown word, jati would’ve been used to discriminate though, for the jati chauvinists a sincere reading of “मनीषा पंचकम्:” is highly recommended.

  • ccc

    In 47′ they should all have been sent to pakistan but gandhi & congress didn’t want that but nothing can be done about it now, nobody can stop muslim population rise. By the end of the century they will become more than 21% of the total population of India.