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Why Kiren Rijiju Is Right About Hindus In Arunachal Pradesh

Author: Swarajya Staff 
Publication: Swarajyamag.com
Date: February 13, 2017
URL:   https://swarajyamag.com/ideas/why-kiren-rijiju-is-right-about-hindus-in-arunachal-pradesh

Before attacking Kiren Rijiju on his remarks regarding the demography of Arunachal Pradesh, a look at the state’s demographic data is in order

Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, on Monday dubbed as irresponsible the Congress allegation that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was trying to convert Arunachal Pradesh into a Hindu state and asked the grand old party not to make such provocative statements.

“Hindu population is reducing in India because Hindus never convert people. Minorities in India are flourishing unlike some countries around,” Rijiju said in his tweet.

Posting a series of tweets along with a screenshot of a news report that quoted the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee as saying that the BJP government is “trying to convert Arunachal Pradesh into a Hindu state”, Rijiju reminded the grand old party that India is a secular country.
Kiren Rijiju @KirenRijiju
Congress should not make such provocative statements. India is a secular country. All religious groups enjoy freedom & living peacefully. https://t.co/bmpOarAMcJ
February 13, 2017

Kiren Rijiju @KirenRijiju
Why is Congress making such irresponsible statements? People of Arunachal Pradesh are unitedly living peacefully with each other. pic.twitter.com/uxcdsW6Vcm
February 13, 2017

Is Kiren Rijju's statements merely rhetorical or is religious conversion by Christian evangelists causing fundamental changes in the state's demographic composition.

We reproduce key summary of work done by J.K Bajaj, Director, Centre for Policy Studies and author of several books including the landmark Indian Demographics.

Arunachal Pradesh constitutes one of the main stories of the Religion Data of Census 2011. In the course of the last decade of 2001-11, the proportion of Christians in the population of the state has risen from less than 19 to more than 30 percent, and they now form a majority or near majority of the population in several districts. The share of Christians in the Scheduled Tribes population of the state and the districts is even higher.

Arunachal Pradesh, unlike other hill states of the Northeast, had escaped widespread Christianisation until 1981 and, to a large extent, even until 1991. Christian presence in the state began to acquire serious proportions in 2001. The Religion Data of Census 2011 indicates that the state is now well on its way towards near-complete Christianisation of the Schedule Tribes population as it happened within the first decade or two of independence in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur and, to a significant extent, in Meghalaya.

Religious Demography of Arunachal Pradesh, 1971-2011

Almost the entire population of Arunachal Pradesh is divided among Other Religions and Persuasions (ORPs), Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. Besides these, there are also 27,045 Muslims counted in 2011, as compared to only 842 in 1971.

The most remarkable change, however, in these four decades has occurred in the number and proportion of Christians.

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Growth of Christianity since 1971

In 1971, only 3,864 Christians were counted in Arunachal Pradesh in the total population of 4.67 lakhs. Of the few Christians counted then, only 1,091 were from the Scheduled Tribes, and of these 520 belonged to the Padam tribe. The number of Christians grew substantially in 1981 and 1991, but it still remained low compared to the total population.

During the last two decades, their numbers have risen rapidly and, in the 2011 census, Christians constituted the largest religious community of the state. The figures below graphically show the rapid growth of Christians relative to the other religious communities. Until 1991, they were fewer than even the Buddhists, who are limited to only a few districts . In 2001, they overtook the Buddhists and in 2011, their numbers have surpassed both the Hindus and the ORPs.

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Another way to appreciate the drastic change that has occurred in the religious profile of Arunachal Pradesh is to look at the share of different religious communities in the total population.

As seen in the table below, Christians had a share of less than one per cent of the population in 1971. That number has risen to more than 30 per cent now and much of this change has happened in the last two decades. The share of ORPs, under which more than 63 per cent of the population was classified in 1971, has correspondingly declined to just 26 percent.

The share of Buddhists had remained nearly unchanged at around 13 per cent up to 2001. In 2011, it has declined to less than 12 per cent. The share of Hindus had risen from 22 per cent to 37 per cent between 1971 and 1991. However, in the last two decades, they have lost as many as 8 percentage points off this peak value. The share of Muslims in these four decades has increased from 0.18 percent to nearly 2 percent.

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Since Christian evangelical activity is aimed at mainly the Scheduled Tribes (ST), the Christian share among them, rather than in the total population, is a more accurate measure of the spread of Christianity in the state. Unfortunately, separate religious demographic data for the Scheduled Tribes has not been released yet for the Census of 2011. In the table here, we have compiled the religious profile of the Scheduled Tribes as counted in 2001.

Of the total population of 10.98 lakhs in 2001, 7.05 lakhs belonged to the Scheduled Tribes. Among these, 1.87 lakhs, forming 26.5 per cent of the ST population were Christians. This proportion was considerably higher than the share of 18.7 per cent that they had in the total population. There were less than 19,000 Christians in the non-ST population of 3.93 lakhs; their share in this population was only 4.8 percent.

In 2011, of the total population of 13.84 lakhs, 9.52 lakhs were from the ST communities. If we conservatively assume that the ST and non-ST Christians have grown at the same rate during 2001-11, then of the 4.19 lakh Christians counted in 2011, at least 3.80 lakhs should be from the ST communities, forming about 40 percent of the ST population. Thus Christianity seems to have spread much deeper among the Scheduled Tribes populations than what is suggested by their share of 30 percent in the total population of the state.

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Share of Christians in major Scheduled Tribe communities

The share of Christians in some of the major Scheduled Tribe communities of the state may be much higher than even 40 per cent that we have estimated for the total ST population. We do not yet have the data for individual ST communities, but an analysis of the data of the previous census indicates that many of the major communities may have been fully converted to Christianity now.

Census 2001 counts as many as a 100 tribal communities in Arunachal Pradesh. Many of these represent very small groups. As many as 13 of these have less than 10 members, and 3 among them have only one member each. Only 47 of the 100 communities have more than a thousand members. These 47 communities exhaust all but eleven thousand of the total ST population of the state. Dividing the Scheduled Tribe populations into a great multiplicity of micro units is a peculiar feature of the Census in Arunachal Pradesh.
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