CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey | Remarkable support for religious pluralism

An overwhelming majority of respondents appeared to support the idea that India belongs to all religions equally, not just Hindus

April 12, 2024 05:51 am | Updated 10:15 am IST

A view of a mosque, temple, and shrine on the banks of the Jhelum river in the old city of  Srinagar.

A view of a mosque, temple, and shrine on the banks of the Jhelum river in the old city of Srinagar. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

India has been a multi-religious society for centuries. Different religions have coexisted and created for themselves cultural niches in the social space. Religious pluralism has survived historical accidents and political maelstroms. But some sociopolitical events and a growing chorus to turn the country into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ have created doubts. Is the long-cherished ideal of religious tolerance still close to people’s hearts? Is India’s secular social fabric under grave threat? The the pre-poll survey helps clear these doubts.

Lokniti CSDS pre-poll survey for 2024 Lok Sabha elections

The findings reveal that an overwhelming majority of respondents (79%) appeared to support the idea that India belongs to all religions equally and not just Hindus; that it must remain a country where people following different religions can live and practice their faith freely. This remarkable support for religious pluralism shows that religious tolerance continues to be a defining element of the social fabric.

It is natural for religious minorities to lay emphasis on religious pluralism. But the view that India belongs to followers of all religions is also held by members of the majority religion. Nearly eight in every 10 Hindus said that they have faith in religious pluralism. Only 11% of Hindus said that they think that India is nation of Hindus.

What is more reassuring is that more more young people (81%) than old (73%) were inclined to put premium on religious pluralism. Although the support for religious tolerance is high across the social spectrum, educational qualifications makes a difference. Compared with 72% of those who were unschooled, 83% of highly educated people said that they were in favour of equal status of all religions.

While communal tensions/conflicts are typically seen as an urban phenomenon, the data show a different pattern. As opposed to a commonly held belief, people living in urban settings appeared to be more supportive of religious pluralism and tolerance than those residing in the countryside.

In sum, a high degree of support for religious pluralism and equality at the societal level points to a couple of things. First, contrary to emerging perceptions, the idea of religious coexistence and tolerance holds its ground firmly. Second, a sharp religious divide in the political realm may not necessarily reflect the situation in the wider society. One, therefore, needs to see how religion features in the electoral context and in everyday life separately.

Sanjeer Alam is Associate Professor at CSDS and Nirmanyu Chauhan is Researcher at Lokniti-CSDS

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