Centre releases census data on religion, hides caste figures

The Centre on Tuesday released the controversial 2011 census data of religious communities that shows proportion of Hindu population to total population has declined by marginal 0.7 percentage point since 2001.

The Hindu population stands at 96.63 crore or 79.8% of the total population of 121 crore Indians. In 2001 census, it was 82.76 crore or 80.46% of the total 103 crore Indians.

In comparison, the Muslim population stands at 17.22 crore or 14.2% of the total population thereby increasing marginally by 0.8% over the last census done in 2001 when their population was 13.81 crore or 13.43% of the total population.

However, the data does not show any other break-up besides urban and rural, thus making it difficult which socio-economic sections of particular communities registered an increase or decline.

The opposition parties, including Left parties and JD(U) have questioned both the timing of data release and its content.

"It has been done under a design to communally polarise Bihar just before elections. The government is keeping the more important caste census under wraps despite being duty bound to release it. Even the religion data gives incomplete picture as it has not been compiled on socio-economic basis that could tell which economic sections of Muslims, Hindus and other communities have registered higher and lower growth rate," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.

Questioning the timing of release, KC Tyagi of JD(U) said, "What has prompted the government to release religion data first instead of detailed caste census, which it is trying to hide."

While the census figure on religion was released more than four years after compilation of the data, the caste data is yet to be made public.

The distribution is total population by six major communities namely Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain besides "other religions and persuasions" and "religion not stated". The data released are by sex and residents upto sub-districts and towns.

The proportion of Sikhs, however, has seen a minuscule decline by 0.2% and their population stands at 2.08 crore or 1.7% of the total population. Similarly, population of Buddhist sect declined by 0.1% in last one decade and stands at 84.42 lakh.

However, in absolute terms both Sikhs and Buddhists have gained as their population was 1.92 crore and 79.55 lakh respectively in 2001.

There has been no significant change in the proportion of population of Christians and Jains. While Christian population stands at 2.78 crore or 2.3% of the total population, the Jains constitute 45 lakh or 0.4% of the total population. In 2001, the Christian population was 2.4 crore and Jains 42.25 lakh. Other religions & persuasions (ORP) constitute 0.79 crore or 0.7% and 'religion not stated' constitute 0.29 crore or 0.2%.

State-wise increase (% in 2011 over the 2001)

Assam: Hindu population rose by 11%, Muslim by 29.5%

West Bengal: Hindus grew by 10.8%, Muslims by 22%

Bihar: Hindus grew by 24%, Muslims by 28%

Uttar Pradesh: Hindus grew by 18.90%, Muslims by 29.19%