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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

ARTICLE
AMIT SENGUPTA | 16 SEPTEMBER, 2015

MISUSE OF CENSUS DATA ON RELIGION FOR NARROW POLITICAL GAINS

The belated release of census data on religion has been followed by predictable reactions from sections with a motivated interest in promoting sectarian divisions on religious lines. Judicious interpretation of census data can be a powerful tool for planning as demographic trends are good indicators of underlying socio-cultural and economic factors that determine changes in the trajectory of populations. India is perhaps the most culturally diverse country in the world and disaggregated census data provides information about social, cultural and economic trends in different communities. It is foolhardy to pass judgments based on a snapshot view of crude data, and a sober assessment requires deeper understanding of the factors that determine population growth and stabilization. The knee jerk reaction to the census data on religion has largely focused on the higher rate of population growth among Muslims as compared to other communities. Bold headlines, prominently displayed in a major section of the corporate controlled media, have added fuel to the propaganda machinery of the sectarian Hindutva lobby.

A more sober interpretation of the data would, however, indicate some interesting trends. Unfortunately the declaration of the census data on religion has been done hastily, without explanatory notes that the census office usually provides. It is hence not possible to corroborate the trends in the data on religion with demographic trends linked to poverty rates and other indicators of socio economic backwardness. However data from other sources can help us in arriving at a composite picture of the data on religion.

It is learned that GoI had “advised” Veterans not to hold the “Ekta Rally”. But the rally on September 12th was a huge success, with thousands of Veterans from all over India converging at Jantar Mantar, exceeding the expectations of the organizers. When TV crews present were asked as to why the rally was not being screened, on condition of anonymity they revealed that GoI had “advised” the TV channel managements not to air the event. It has also come to light that buses crammed with Veterans were stopped at the Delhi border to deter Veterans (all old and many infirm) from reaching Jantar Mantar.

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