A New Approach to the Study of Religious Population of India

Dr Shah Hamideen


If one unit increases to two units, it is regarded as one hundred percent increase. On the other hand, if two units increase to three units, it is taken as 50 percent increase. Although in both cases, the resulting increase is the same. It is quite evident that the percentage rate of growth appears more in the case of small base (small group)

Increase in total number of a particular small group is entirely different from percentage change in the strength of the relatively bigger group. The comparison between change in a group having a small base with a bigger group (big base) is not a rational method. This kind of comparative study yields unrealistic conclusions. Some vested interests try to use such methods to propagate the idea of fast increase in the population of  Muslims in India. Notice the difference in the size of these respective groups. As per 2001, Census, the Muslim population was 13.8 crore whereas the Hindu population was 82.7 crore. Hindus are more than seven times that of the other group.

 It has been observed that a faulty approach has been used to analyse  the status of population of Muslims in India. The fault lies in comparing a group with a small base with another group having a larger base. In such a situation the rate of change appears very high in the case of the smaller-base group in comparison to a bigger base. Statisticians always strongly advocate the fact that such a mistake should not be made. The following description examines this concept from a different perspective by using a new approach. We know Muslims constitute a rather small group as compared to the Hindu population. Therefore, the comparison of rate of growth between the population growth of these two groups should not be taken seriously. There is a need for a different approach to study the  difference in the change of various religious  communities. Our concern should be with the total number of people in a particular group, and not with the rate of growth, which has relevance only on paper.  Our social, cultural and political life is going to be influenced by the total number of people belonging to a particular group. See just  one instance. During1961-1971, the rate of growth of Sikh population was 32.28 percent. This rate  of growth is much higher than the Hindu population rate of growth, which was only  23.67 percent .However, the catch  lies  in change in total population  of these two communities. The total number of majority group  increased by  9.6 crores. On the  other hand  the  increase  in terms  of total  number of Sikh community was higher than Hindus.

Another example: The increase in Hindu population was more than seven crore in a decade. This result can be noticed in the remaining decades as well. This is explained by the following table. (2.68): 


Increase in Population            Hindus                     Muslims

During 1961 - 1971                  8.67 crore                1.44crore

During 1971 - 1981                  14 .63crore              1.88 crore

During 1981 - 1991                  16.30 crore              2.68crore

  . | During 1991---2001          18.30crore               3.14 crore 

(Source: Census of India, derived from various Census reports )

The addition in the Hindu population in each decade shows an upward movement, so is the case of total number of Muslims in India. However, the excess of Hindu population over Muslim population has not only been maintained, rather the gap has widened further with the passage of time. See the following schedule:


The net difference in additional population of Hindus and Muslims:

Decade     The net increase total number The net increase in total                of Hindus                                                number of Muslims

1971 - 81   14 crores                                               1 crore

1981 - 91   16 crores                                               2 crores

1991 - 2001 18 crores                                             3 crores

Source :  table  derived from various Census reports: the addition  in the Hindu population  in each decade ,shows an upward movement ,so is the case  of total number of Muslims  in India .However, the  excess of Hindu  population over Muslim  population  has not only been  maintained rather  the gap has widened further with the passage of time .See the following schedule.


Comparative study of population profile of minority groups

The argument that the small-base groups reveal high percentage rate of growth of population applies in case of other smaller religious groups also. A comparative study of population growth rate of smaller-base religious groups confirms the central idea of this paper. The following gives increase in population trends for major religions of India, please compare the following:

Decade                     Hindus     Sikhs

1961 - 71                 23.67       32.28

1971 - 1981             24.07       26.15

1981 - 1991             22.70       25.46

1991 - 2001             19.93       16.98

(Source: Census of India, derived from various Census reports):


The analysis based on the percent rate of growth of population confirms our point of view. It is clear from the above table, that the rate of growth of Sikh population has been much higher as compared to growth rate of Hindu population. (except for 1991 - 2001), however the total increase of Sikh population is very very small in  comparison to Hindu population. (Source: Table derived on the basis of Census data)


Rate of growth in percentage

Period                       Hindus     Buddhist

1961 - 71                 23.67       32.28

1971 - 81                 24.07       24.80

1981 - 91                 22.70       36.13

1991 - 2001             19.93       22.83


Another small-base group, Jains, has also recorded higher population growth as compared to growth rate of Hindu population (except for 1981-91) although the total increase in the Jain population in different decades  has always been a few lakh only. Thus it should be accepted that the small-base group’s  growth rate of population is not to be compared with the bigger base.


Population growth between 1961- 2001

Hindu                       125.79

Sikh                          144.91

Buddhist                   144.32    


On the basis of the above data we may draw a wrong conclusion, i.e., growing number of Sikhs and Buddhists, although the total increase in population of these two religious groups is  meagre in comparison to total population of Hindus.

All the small-base religious groups indicate relatively higher rate of growth of population. It is a common characteristic of all these groups, say, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. It is not a special characteristic of any particular group. It is quite illogical to put the onus of fast growth on any such group. (Source: Table based on Census data)


Now let us see the change in total population of the two major groups during the period 1961 - 2001

Period       Total population Hindus   Total population of Muslims

                (in crore)                        (in crores)

1961        36. .65 crore                  4.69 crore 

2001        82.75 crore                    13.81crore

Addition of population during this period  

                46.10 crore                    9.12 crore


In the 40 years, the Hindu population shot up by the addition of 46 crore (more than double). On the other hand, Muslim population in the same period increased only to 9 crores.

The above data has been taken from the official records and publications. The analysis of this data proves the point that Hindus will always remain the majority group in India. Even the census report states that “there is virtually no possibility of Muslims outnumbering  Hindus in India. (Source: Table derived on Census data)

Census experts have also taken into account the effect of lower base of Muslim on India’s population. The Census report states “Despite the higher growth rate, because of their lower base, Muslims will add considerably less population to their fold than the Hindus. The fear that Muslims would out- number Hindus in India as a whole is totally unwarranted.’’ Source: Census Report 1991, Page 26

Most of the Indian Muslims  are converts. All of us belong to the same race .Our genetic map is the same .Fertility of women cannot change due to change in religion .(Source: Table derived from the Census data)


The author is a retired professor of economics. He started his teaching career at Jamia Millia in 1968, joined Delhi College in 1970 and taught at Basra Universty during 1980-82. He is a former principal of Zakir HJusain PG College, Delhi and has been a resource person of UNESCO.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2015 on page no. 9

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at

blog comments powered by Disqus