Pew Research shows India as a ‘religiously tolerant’ country


It is a well-known fact that Indians are a deeply devout and religious population. And in fact, many Indians are a lot more tolerant of numerous other religions that exist in the country.

It comes as no surprise that a new survey shows that India has a very religiously tolerant population.

A major new Pew Research Center survey of religion and religious identities across India, has said that Indians of all religious backgrounds, overwhelmingly, say they are very free to practice their faiths in the country.

It also showed that respect for all religions is identified at the core of both national and religious identity by all the six major religious groups, which also overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths.

The survey, ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation, was based on around 30,000 respondents and conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, also found that people in the south of India differ from the rest of the country in their views of religion and national identity.

“The survey consistently finds that people in the south (the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, and the Union Territory of Puducherry) differ from Indians elsewhere in the country in their views on religion, politics, and identity,” the Pew survey said.

The study found that nearly 97 percent of Indians believe in God and 80 percent people across religious groups feel that God exists, however, one-third of Buddhists said they do not believe in God.

Interestingly, the Pew research found that India’s religious groups share several religious practices and beliefs for example 29 percent Sikhs, 22 percent Christian women and 18 percent Muslim women wear a bind0i (marking on the forehead of a married woman) although it is a Hindu symbol with Muslims, Hindus and Christians likely to believe in Karma.

One common thread found was that Indians of all religious backgrounds overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths.

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.” And tolerance is a religious as well as civic value: Indians are united in the view that respecting other religions is a very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community.

Yet, 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%).

However, the survey shows 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.

The study also found that many Indians are more than happy to celebrate each other religious festivals as their own.

The research further found that 48 percent of Indian Muslims said that the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 was a bad thing for Hindu-Muslim relations with 74 percent Muslims in support of access to existing Islamic courts.

As far as religious identity is concerned, nearly 72 percent of people surveyed said a person cannot be a Hindu if they eat beef, while among Muslims 77 percent said a person cannot be a Muslim if they eat pork.

The research revealed that close friends of Indian citizens come mainly or entirely from their own religious community with differing views on inter-religious marriages.