Indians, whatever their religion, are not only believers, but also conservative in their attitude towards religion. Political support, even for rationalist and communist political groups, does not change anything. While they claim to have respect for people of other faiths, they are not very inclined to promote Western-style secularism, which calls for the separation of religion and politics.
Some of the most controversial and controversial political positions around religion, such as the Love-Jihad scarecrow, are not based on facts but on widespread disapproval of such ideas in principle. These results, if true, suggest that radical secularism or “enlightened” politics is unlikely to work politically in India and that mainstream politics will continue to bow to conservative values around caste and religion. .
These are among the interesting findings of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based “non-partisan facts pool” that offers useful information about the role of religion in politics. The poll, Religion in India: tolerance and segregation, is based on 30,000 interviews conducted between November 2019 and March 2020.
The intersection of religion and politics has always been contested ground in India. The Indian nation suffered partition along religious lines at birth, but adopted a secular state form. This issue has gained prominence since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), stormed the parliamentary majority in 2014, becoming the first party to gain a majority after 1984. It reproduced this feat. in 2019. The political victory of the BJP came thanks to a massive consolidation of Hindu votes and an almost negligible representation of Muslims in the support base or elected representatives of the ruling party.
The opposition, realizing the seriousness of the political challenge, attempted many tricks to counter the BJP. The most common of these is what is often described as the “soft-hindutva” approach. This is characterized by the fact that political leaders openly associate themselves with Hindu religious symbols such as visiting temples or even reciting scriptures during political campaigning. The success of such an approach has been mixed, which also means that it is difficult to establish a cause and effect relationship. There is also a small but noisy minority who advocate a radical approach to question and undermine established religious and cultural norms.
It is this context that makes the survey results interesting. Here are some of the main ones:
Most Indians are believers
Indians are overwhelmingly believers when it comes to God. This tendency is maintained in all religions, except among Buddhists where a third declares himself non-believer. While the overall share of non-believers is low in major religions, the probability of finding a Muslim or Sikh non-believer is three times that of finding one among Hindus and Christians. The disproportionate share of non-believers among Buddhists seems to be due to the conversion of Bhim Rao Ambedkar to Buddhism in 1956. 89% of Buddhists identified themselves as members of the listed castes (SC) in the survey.
“It seems that the concentration of Buddhists who are also Dalits and Atheists is higher in Maharashtra (5% of the total population of Maharashtra versus 0.5% nationally). Of course, however, the overwhelming majority of Indian Buddhists (85%) are located in Maharashtra, ”Neha Sahgal, associate director of research at Pew Research, told HT.
Voting for communists and rationalists does not change the faith much
What is also interesting is that the attitude towards God does not change significantly with political persuasion. The share of believers among those who voted for the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI (M) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) did not differ significantly from the group that did not voted for such holidays.
This is contrary to perceived wisdom, since the leaders of the Communists and the DMK do not recognize religion in their political positions. However, this statistic explains why the CPI (M) was so vulnerable to a Hindu backlash when it supported a Supreme Court ruling (now upheld) allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala Shrine in Kerala, which was contrary to established custom.
At first glance, community harmony coexists with segregation
A large majority of Indians, of all faiths, consider respect for other religions to be an important part of being Indian and being faithful to one’s own religion. This sentiment exists despite the fact that a majority of Hindus, Muslims and Christians see themselves as very different from other religions and display a strong desire for religious segregation, especially when it comes to marriage.
The statistics speak for themselves. 80% and 79% of Hindus and Muslims believe that respect for other religions is a very important part of their religious identity. Granted, experts believe such answers might not reveal the true picture.
“That people tend to hide or under-report politically incorrect opinions or answers in polls is a well-known fact and the extent of community polarization in India could be much greater,” said Neelanjan Sircar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University and a Fellow at the Center for Policy Research.
66% Hindus and 64% Muslims also thought they were very different from each other. 67% and 80% of Hindus and Muslims, respectively, thought it was very important to prevent women in their community from marrying outside their religion. The numbers are not much different even when it comes to men who marry outside of their religion.
Certainly, the high levels of preference for community harmony could be the result of a tendency to appear as politically correct among respondents. When asked if they saw religious diversity as beneficial to their country, only 53% (52% Hindus and 56% Muslims) said yes.
What makes people excluded from their religion?
Eating prohibited meat (beef among Hindus and pork among Muslims) is the biggest disqualification when it comes to being considered part of the community. 72% Hindus and 77% Muslims believe that a person cannot be Hindu / Muslim if they eat beef / pork. Sikhs and Jains also strongly disapprove of the consumption of beef. Although this is the common factor between Hindus and Muslims, the two groups differ on other triggers of being considered outcasts.
Observing the festivals of other religious communities is a greater taboo among Hindus than among Muslims. Muslims are relatively more forgiving when it comes to observing other religious festivals than not participating in their own rituals and festivals. The “disrespect for India” is also a big trigger to be seen as an outcast, both among Hindus and Muslims. These statistics underscore the political risk that would be attracted by a politician advocating tolerance for eating beef or pork, or challenging “nationalism”.
Fear of perceived religious transgressions is what fuels community politics
Why does something like “Love-Jihad,” a term used by many Hindu majority organizations to advocate large-scale interfaith marriage and the conversion of Hindu women, find political strength in India? Almost all Indians do not report having faced a religious conversion in their lifetime. The sometimes rare cases of conversion, even when they do occur, are present in all religions. What explains the paranoia that such problems generate then?
One possible explanation could be the fact that most Indians are not averse to politicians who influence religious affairs. Politicians can exploit entrenched religious fears, such as aversion to interfaith marriage or disproportionate opposition to a uniform civil code among Muslims – 74% of Muslims argue that Muslims can take their own religious courts to settle a dispute. family dispute rather than just 30% Hindus – to build a political constituency around these issues. This preference for an authoritarian leader is almost the same among many Indian religions, including Hindus and Muslims, should encourage such tendencies.