14 A Hindu Majority India? - Lionel Fernandes

posted Jun 14, 2018, 8:35 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jun 14, 2018, 8:35 AM ]
It is generally believed that India is an overwhelmingly Hindu country. The ideologues of Hindutva push this argument to the extreme. It is necessary to take a close look at this assertion, and check out whether it is backed by facts. Yes, the 2011 Census gives the following percentages of Religions in India: Hinduism 79.80, Islam 14.23, Christianity 2.30, Sikhism 1.72, Buddhism 0.70, Jainism 0.37, Zoroastrianism (57,264 Parsis), Others 0.90. Prima facie, the above figures bear out the claim of Hindus being the overwhelming majority of India's population.

However, the 79.80 figure conveniently includes the Scheduled Castes (SC) 16.60, and Scheduled Tribes (ST) 8.60, both of which are not strictly speaking Hindu. Traditional Manuvadi Hinduism included only the 'savarna' castes of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, while the Shudras were considered 'antyajas' or literally 'born outside the fold' and therefore untouchable. The last category is today lumped together as SC, while the tribals are enumerated as ST, often referred to by savarna Hindus as 'vanvasis' or 'forest dwellers'. It is another matter that aspects of Hinduism have influenced the SCs and STs, even as they have been influenced by other faiths, not excluding Islam and Christianity.

If one deducts the 16.60 of the SC and the 8.60 of the ST from the 79.80 figure given for Hinduism, we are left with 54.60 for the latter which is certainly a numerical majority, but not by any stretch an overwhelming one that warrants India being declared a Hindu Rashtra, as the Hindutva ideologues would want. Indeed, if the SC and ST percentages are added to those of the non-Hindu faiths, the total for the non-Hindu segment of Indian society is an impressive 45.40.

The Founding Fathers of the Indian Republic very wisely decided that India should be a secular, and not a theocratic, State. Apart from statistics, a more basic question is how to define Hinduism. The answer is proverbially elusive on all counts, as the term does not imply adherence to any mandatory doctrine, cult or religious authority. It does not even demand belief of any kind, as non-believers (nastikas) are not excluded. It is more an allusion to the collective practices of the inhabitants of the geographical region deriving its name from the river Indus. It is a default category, in view of the other faiths having a defined character in terms of founder, doctrine and cult.