Hindu alarm over surge in Muslim population

India's Hindu right wing seized on new census findings that show Muslims are the fastest-growing community in the country as "evidence" in its campaign against religious minorities yesterday.

India's Hindu right wing seized on new census findings that show Muslims are the fastest-growing community in the country as "evidence" in its campaign against religious minorities yesterday.

Venkaiah Naidu, a senior figure in the BJP party, which headed the last government and was only voted out of office in May, said the findings were "a cause of grave concern for all those who think of India's integrity in the long run".

The new findings - the first time India's population has been officially broken down and analysed by religion - come just weeks after predictions that India's population will overtake China's as the world's largest in the next 30 years.

But within hours of the dire warnings from the BJP, the findings were found to be the result of a miscalculation that had exaggerated the rate of growth in the Muslim population.

According to the initial figures, based on comparing censuses in 2001 and 1991, the Muslim population grew by 36 per cent, compared with 20.3 per cent growth in the Hindu population. But it appears the analysts forgot that 2001's census included Jammu and Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority, while 1991's did not.

A more accurate figure for Muslim growth would be around 29 per cent, which still makes Muslims the fastest-growing community.

The BJP and other parties on the right have used the findings to promote the idea of Hindutva, an assertive Hindu identity for India.

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