ARUNACHAL: MINORITY REPORT
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.