Indians generally feel they live in a society where followers of many religions can live and practice freely, according to the latest survey of the US-based think-tank Pew. Based on the face-to-face interviews of adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020 (before the Covid-19 pandemic), the Pew survey on 30,000 Indians found that Indians of all religious backgrounds overwhelmingly say they are very free to practise 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,” it said. According to Pew, 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 do not 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% cent). There are 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, it said. The survey also found Hindus tend to see their religious identity and Indian national identity as closely intertwined: Nearly two-thirds of Hindus (64%) say it is very important to be Hindu to be “truly” Indian.
Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi – one of dozens of languages that are widely spoken in India. And these two dimensions of national identity – being able to speak Hindi and being a Hindu – are closely connected.