According to Article 25 of the Indian constitution, every person is free to practice the religion of their choice. That said, there is fear that religious intolerance is rising in the country. One can see a few people propagate the ‘Hindu khatre mein hai’ agenda on WhatsApp groups and other social channels. A few Muslims are also worried about their safety considering the ruling party openly caters to Hindu voters. Even in foreign publications, India’s intolerance for different religions has been questioned.
Indians are willing to co-exist
One may get the impression that the country is suffering when it comes to maintaining harmony but the truth is a lot different. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center (called ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’), 91% Indians feel that others are free to practice their own religion. The survey was conducted on 29,999 people from across India. According to the report, “Local interviewers administered the survey between Nov. 17, 2019, and March 23, 2020, in 17 languages. The survey covered all states and union territories of India, with the exceptions of Manipur and Sikkim, where the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation prevented fieldwork from starting in the spring of 2020, and the remote territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep; these areas are home to about a quarter of 1% of the Indian population. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir was covered by the survey, though no fieldwork was conducted in the Kashmir region itself due to security concerns.”
As many as 84% of people (from all religions) believe that being Indian is synonymous with respecting all religions. 80% of the people also believe that their religion teaches them to respect all religions.
Not everything is ideal
Even though Indians are tolerant of other religions, they are against religious intermarriages. Except Christians, every community has a huge percentage of people against the notion of such marriages.
Even when it comes to choosing friends, Hindus prefer to stay among their own community. Even Sikhs and Jains believe that a lot of their friends are people from their own religion. One in three Hindus don’t want a Muslim neighbour. That’s 36% of the population. Compare it to the percentage of Muslims who don’t want a Hindu neighbour – just 16%. 59% of Hindus also believe that all Indians should know Hindi in order to be considered Indian.
These are deplorable numbers and they reveal that religious animosity still exists. Religious intolerance though is a much stronger word. All of us look up to Mahatma Gandhi as an idol and he had said, “I came to the conclusion long ago that all religions were true and that also that all had some error in them, and while I hold by my own religion, I should hold other religions as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we were Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu; but our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Christian a better Christian.”
We may have the utmost respect for other religions but there are still certain issues that we need to iron out.