Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation


    In News

    “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation”, a Pew Center report on religious attitudes in India stated that Indians value religious freedom, not integration.


    • It is a major survey of religion across India.
    • It is conducted by Pew Research Center.
    • It is based on nearly 30,000 face-to-face interviews of adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020.

    Key Findings

    • Religious Freedom: The report finds that Indians of all these religious backgrounds overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths. 

    Image Courtesy: TH

    • Tolerance: Indians see religious tolerance as a central part of who they are as a nation. Across the major religious groups, most people say it is very important to respect all religions to be “truly Indian.” Tolerance is a religious as well as civic value. 
    • Shared Values: There are some shared values accompanied by a number of beliefs that cross religious lines: 
      • Not only do a majority of Hindus in India (77%) believe in karma, but an identical percentage of Muslims do, too. 
      • A third of Christians in India (32%) – together with 81% of Hindus – say they believe in the purifying power of the Ganges River. 
      • In Northern India, 12% of Hindus and 10% of Sikhs, along with 37% of Muslims, identity with Sufism, a mystical tradition most closely associated with Islam. 
      • And the vast majority of Indians of all major religious backgrounds say that respecting elders is very important to their faith.
    • Differences: Despite sharing certain values and religious beliefs – as well as living in the same country, under the same constitution – members of India’s major religious communities often don’t feel they have much in common with one another: 
      • The majority of Hindus see themselves as very different from Muslims (66%), and most Muslims return the sentiment, saying they are very different from Hindus (64%). 
      • There are a few exceptions: Two-thirds of Jains and about half of Sikhs say they have a lot in common with Hindus. But generally, people in India’s major religious communities tend to see themselves as very different from others.
    • Affinity to Own Group: Indians generally stick to their own religious group when it comes to their friends. Fewer Indians go so far as to say that their neighbourhoods should consist only of people from their own religious groups. Still, many would prefer to keep people of certain religions out of their residential areas or villages.
    • Live Together Separately: Indians simultaneously express enthusiasm for religious tolerance and a consistent preference for keeping their religious communities in segregated spheres – they live together separately. These two sentiments may seem paradoxical, but for many Indians, they are not.
      • Indians’ concept of religious tolerance does not necessarily involve the mixing of religious communities. 
      • Indians seem to prefer a country more like a patchwork fabric, with clear lines between groups.

    • Being Hindu important to Indian identity for many Hindus: Most Hindus think two dimensions of national identity – being able to speak Hindi and being a Hindu – are closely connected. An identical percentage of Muslims and Hindus (65 per cent each) saw communal violence as a very big national problem.
    • The Partition sentiment: The survey found that while Sikhs and Muslims were more likely to say the Partition was a ‘bad thing’, Hindus were leaning in the opposite direction.
    • Caste is another dividing line in Indian society, and not just among Hindus: Religion is not the only fault line in Indian society. In some regions of the country, significant shares of people perceive widespread, caste-based discrimination.
    • Religious conversion in India: This survey finds that religious switching, or conversion, has a minimal impact on the overall size of India’s religious groups. Other groups display similar levels of stability. Changes in India’s religious landscape over time are largely a result of differences in fertility rates among religious groups, not conversion.
    • Religion is very important across India’s religious groups: The vast majority of Indians, across all major faiths, say that religion is very important in their lives. And at least three-quarters of each major religion’s followers say they know a great deal about their own religion and its practices. 


    (Image Courtesy: PewForum)


    • India’s massive population is diverse as well as devout.
    • Not only do most of the world’s Hindus, Jains and Sikhs live in India, but it also is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and to millions of Christians and Buddhists.

    Source: TH