According to the 2011 census in India, close to 80% of the total population subscribe to the Hindu religion. With such high numbers, the expectation is that the rates and levels of religious intolerance would be through the roof, as seen in other countries with such a high dominance of a single religion. However, the reality is very different says Rubina Ratnakar. The level of religious diversity and tolerance in India is astonishing. So much so that it warrants further investigation. Why is it there is such a high religious tolerance? What sets India apart from other religious intolerance nations whose greatest percentage of the population belongs to the dominant religion?
Appreciating the magnitude and influence of the religious tolerance and diversity
Hinduism has over 10 known denominations. Islam has about 5 known denominations. Yet, predominantly Muslim nations have been shown to have the highest rates and severity in religious intolerance, going so far as being intolerant towards other denominations. That India shows such a high religious tolerance in the face of such great religious diversity, even just within its dominant religion is a feat that requires mention and notice. Moving past the diversity shown in Hinduism, let us take into account the numbers. According to the census, 79.8% of the total population is Hindu, which is over 966 million people. Yet, the rest of the religions, which constitute a minority in great proportions, are free to live and worship as they please without persecution or such intolerance. As an example, there is a particularly high rise of secularism in India and although there might be some reserved views, there is little intolerance towards secularists.
Probable reason behind the high religious tolerance
It is hard to pinpoint an exact reason behind why the Indian people are so harmonious with each other when it comes to religion. However, if I had to venture a guess, it would be the influence of Hinduism. Hinduism is not just a religion, but a culture as well. As both a religion and culture, it promotes diversity, freedom, harmonious living, peace and other great qualities that no doubt, have an impact on the mindset of the people. Evidenced by its many denominations it practices what it preaches and is there truly a better way to learn than by direct action? Another equally influential reason is the evolution of Hinduism as a religion. This has no doubt made the people more aware of change and diversity, knowledge that has no doubt been passed down over the years.
That there is high religious diversity and tolerance does not mean that there aren’t cases of religious intolerance. However, the bad apples exist at too little a magnitude or scale to affect the general consensus.