The Pew study’s glazed picture of our religious tolerance

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Source: Livemint

What is the News?

Pew Research Center, a non-profit based in Washington DC has released the results of the survey titled ‘Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation’. The survey takes a closer look at religious identity, nationalism, and tolerance in Indian society.

Key Findings of the Survey:

Religious Tolerance and Segregation:

  • Most Indians across all religions feel they enjoy religious freedom, value religious tolerance, and regard respect for all religions as central to what India is as a nation.
  • However, the majority of Indians prefer friendships and peer groups to be largely restricted to their own religious and/or caste groups.
    • For instance, one in three Hindus did not want a Muslim as a neighbor.
  • Further, the majority of Hindus, predominantly from North India—linked the idea of being a ‘true Indian’ with being Hindu and speaking Hindi.
Inter-Caste and Inter-Religious Marriage:
  • The majority of Indians prefer to marry within their own castes/religion and prefer their parents to ‘arrange’ their marriages.
  • However, people opposed to inter-caste marriage are a minority in the south.
Significance of the Survey:
  • Divided Society: The survey clearly shows how divided Indian society is and how central religion is to the average Indian: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh.
  • Meaning of Tolerant: The survey has shown what exactly Indians mean when they say they are ‘tolerant’.
    • Being tolerant comes with a caveat: it is clearly limited to each group living segregated lives and within their agreed lines. Transgression of these supposedly ‘agreed lines’ can and often do result in violence.
  • Patriarchal Society: The idea that women cannot marry out of their religion or caste community is something that a majority of those surveyed prefer.
    • Decades-old Indian feminist research on marriage and women has also shown how almost all religions foster patriarchal set-ups under which women are viewed as property.
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