Along with other characteristics, the predominant religions in India and Pakistan are also dissimilar. Despite having a variety of religions, each country has a different major religion. Following are the different religion stats and conditions in India and Pakistan.
Religions in India
Hindus make up the majority of the population in India, a multi-faith democracy. India has a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices, which define its religion. According to consensus data of 2021, Hindus make up 74.28% of India’s population, followed by Muslims who make up 18.23%, Christians 2.96%, Sikhs 1.57%, Buddhists 0.96% and Jains 0.94%.
Despite the majority of the population being Hindu (about 80%), the Indian state is ostensibly secular, and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. Hinduism is an ancient religion with approximately 966m followers, the largest religious community in India, rising in numbers. Jainism is a non-theistic Indian religion. 4.45 million of India’s people identify as Jains. Another religion, Buddhism is practised mainly in the Himalayan foothills.
In India, there are about 8.5 million Buddhists in the country’s total population. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion in India. There are about 20.8 million Sikhs in India. Sikhs’ only majority-populated state in India is Punjab, which is also their spiritual home. With 2.96 per cent of the population, Christianity is the third most popular religion in India. During the British colonial period, Christianity expanded throughout the rest of India.
The largest minority religion in India is Islam. Approximately, Muslims are 20 million of India’s population. The religion is referred to as a “minority religion” and followers of the religion are accorded “Special rights”. People of other minority religions reside there too.
Indian Jews currently exist in a very small community. Of the approximately 95,000 Jews of Indian origin, less than 20,000 Jews of Indian descent still live in India. Santhal is also one of the tribal religions followed by Santhal people who number over 4 million, yet only 23,645 of them practise Santhal.
The constitution declares the country to be secular and protects the right to freedom of religion or belief. However, there are worries that things have gotten worse recently for religious minorities and other minority groups, who face persecution and discrimination.
Lately, the government adopted laws and policies that discriminated against religious minorities, especially Muslims. While BJP supporters made false accusations against critics, particularly religious minorities, Hindu mobs beat up Muslims, often working-class males, without punishment. Other causes for concern for India’s Muslims include mob violence against Muslims who are suspected of murdering cows, which are revered by Hindus.
A Hindu priest of the Badi Sangat Ashram in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, went to the mosque with a megaphone and a loudspeaker and threatened to mass rape Muslim women in the area where any Muslim man harassed a Hindu girl. Numerous Hindus, who make up approximately 80% of India’s 1.35 billion population, believe that cows are sacred, and some states controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have enacted laws or toughened existing ones that forbid slaughtering cows.
The US report said attacks on members of minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout last year in India. Eight of India’s twenty-nine states have Freedom of Religion Acts, sometimes known as “anti-conversion” legislation, that regulates religious conversions, according to a 2018 briefing by the Library of Congress. These laws are believed to specifically target Christian communities. It is said that, despite the presence of these laws, relatively few people have been arrested or brought to justice.
Religions in Pakistan
Pakistan, a nation of 220 million people is divided into numerous tribal, linguistic and sectarian groups. There are various Muslim sects, with the majority practising Sunni Islam (about 85-90%) while the minority practising Shia Islam (estimated at 10-15%). The Sunni sect is the largest branch of Islam, and the majority of Pakistanis are Sunnis. Pakistani Sunni Muslims belong to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence, which is represented by the Barelvi and Deobandi traditions. Shii Muslims make up a substantial proportion too.
In addition to the two main groups, there is also a very small minority religion called Ahmadiyyah, also known as Qadiani (for Qadian, India, where the group originated). Even though religious minorities only make up roughly 4% of Pakistan’s population, they frequently highlight in news reports the second-largest Muslim country in the world. Minority groups make up about 4% of the population, with Christians making up 1.27%, Hindus 2.14%, Ahmadis 0.09%, Sikhs 0.01% and various Muslim sects, such as the Shia Muslim community, contributing to about 15-20% of Muslims. Pakistani Christians mainly live in Punjab and urban centres.
The present Christian population in Pakistan is ranged between 2-3 million as per a recent year estimation by various institutions of Pakistan. Hindus are found in all provinces of Pakistan but are mostly concentrated in Sindh. About 93% of Hindus live in Sindh, 5% in Punjab and nearly 2% in Balochistan.
Many Sikhs are living throughout Pakistan today; the estimates vary, but the number is believed to be on the order of 20,000. The Pakistan Constitution declares Islam as the state religion and guarantees that every citizen has the freedom to profess, practise, and spread their religion as long as it doesn’t conflict with the law or with morals or public order. The constitution additionally specifies that all laws must follow the guidelines laid down by Islam in the Quran and Sunnah. Religious freedom conditions across Pakistan continue to trend negatively.
The problems vary from lack of access to healthcare, education, sanitation, and transportation to occupational discrimination and more violence such as kidnappings, forced conversions, blasphemy claims targeted killings, and frequent attacks on places of worship. The systematic misuse of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya legislation as well as the government’s refusal to halt the forced conversions of religious minorities such as Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs to Islam, severely restrict the freedom of religion or belief.
According to section 295-C of the blasphemy penal code, the code charges anyone who uses insulting language against the Prophet (S.A.W.) name or the Quran. Similarly, it has frequently been emphasized that the Christian minority is a marginalized, oppressed, and beleaguered group. However, blasphemy laws are the most common type of abuse against Christians in Pakistan.
It is observed that many blasphemy trials and those convicted of the blasphemy come from vendettas, personal grudges, or even outright prejudice and intolerance. According to reports from the Centre for Social Justice, 1855 people have been accused of blasphemy, in Pakistan, with 2021 seeing a significant increase. This is mainly because Islam itself ensures religious freedom to the whole of humanity. Unfortunately, it appears that some Muslim clerics in Pakistan are attempting to restrict the freedom of religion for people of other religions. Their aversion to the plurality of faith contradicts Islamic precepts.
To conclude, religions in India and Pakistan, and conditions as minorities are deteriorating every day. In addition to target killings of members of minority groups, attacks on religious places of minorities continue unabatedly. However, hope is still there that the situation might get better, on both sides of the border in the future.