NEW DEHLI: The latest census data on the population of religious groups in India shows a 24% rise in the Muslim population between 2001 and 2011, with the community’s share of total population rising from 13.4% to 14.2% over the 10-year period, The Times of India reported on Thursday.
While the growth rate of the Muslim population has slowed from around 29% between 1991 and 2001, it is still higher than the national average of 18% for the decade.
Data accessed by the Indian newspaper showed that the most rapid rise in the share of Muslims in the total population was witnessed in Assam. Muslims constituted 30.9% of the state’s population in 2001, but accounted for a 34.2% share a decade later. The state has had a persisting problem of the illegal influx of Bangladeshi immigrants.
West Bengal, another state where illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been an old phenomenon, also registered a rise in the share of Muslims in total population from 25.2% in 2001 to 27% in 2011 — a growth of 1.9% points over the 10 years, more than double the national average.
Uttarakhand, significantly, has also reported a sharp rise in the share of Muslim population from 11.9% to 13.9% — a growth of two percentage points against the countrywide growth of 0.8 percentage points between 2001 and 2011.
Other states with a significant rise in the share of Muslims in the total population as per the 2011 census were Kerala (from 24.7% to 26.6%), Goa (6.8% to 8.4%), Jammu & Kashmir (67% to 68.3%), Haryana (5.8% to 7%) and Delhi (11.7% to 12.9%).
The census office compiled this data by March last year, but the UPA government held back the release, perhaps fearing political repercussions of the findings on the eve of Lok Sabha elections. Union home minister Rajnath Singh last week gave his go-ahead when Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli asked whether the “sensitive’ figures should be released.
Singh on Wednesday confirmed that the data would be made public soon.
Interestingly, Manipur was the only state to show a fall in Muslim population as a percentage of its total population (a fall of 0.4 percentage points).
The high growth of Muslim population in Assam has been intensely debated and has been a source of political confrontation. In fact, a report prepared on the issue in 1998 by the then governor of Assam, Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha, had warned that illegal immigration was slowly changing the demographic profile in several districts. The Supreme Court has on more than one occasion expressed concern over the change in demography and chided the government for not stopping infiltration from Bangladesh.