India Today - - INSIDE - By Kaushik Deka

On Fe­bru­ary 12, Kiren Rijiju, MoS for home af­fairs, tweeted: “Hindu pop­u­la­tion is re­duc­ing in In­dia be­cause Hin­dus never con­vert peo­ple. Mi­nori­ties in In­dia are flour­ish­ing.” He claimed he was re­spond­ing to al­le­ga­tions that Arunachal Pradesh was be­ing con­verted into a Hindu state by the BJP. The tweet caused con­sid­er­able out­rage. MP Asadud­din Owaisi re­minded Rijiju that he was a “min­is­ter of In­dia for all In­di­ans”, while Congress spokesper­son Ran­deep Singh Sur­je­w­ala, said, “Rijiju is a habitual liar known for spread­ing ca­nards to po­larise peo­ple”.

How­ever, in Rijiju’s home state of Arunachal at least, the Hindu pop­u­la­tion has been in rel­a­tively steady de­cline since 1991, de­spite a strong RSS pres­ence. Mus­lims form a neg­li­gi­ble 2 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. Christians, on the other hand, have grown from less than 1 per cent in 1971 to over 30 per cent in 2011. The num­bers show that the surge has come at the ex­pense of ‘tribal faiths’: in 1971, over 63 per cent fol­lowed tribal re­li­gions; in 2011, that num­ber had dropped to 26 per cent.

Most tribes in Arunachal prac­tise an­i­mism. Rit­u­als, in­clud­ing an­i­mal sac­ri­fices, cost about Rs 60,000 a year. Con­ver­sion to Chris­tian­ity, ar­gue so­cial sci­en­tists, is a relief from the ex­pense.

“Though RSS­af­fil­i­ated or­gan­i­sa­tions have been work­ing in the state,” says Pro­fes­sor Ma­guni Cha­ran Be­hera of the Arunachal In­sti­tute of Tribal Stud­ies, “they don’t fo­cus on re­li­gious con­ver­sions, while Chris­tian mis­sion­ar­ies have been able to at­tract the tribal youth.” It ap­pears the Congress was wrong and Rijiju was right. Sort of.


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