The data shows that the population of Hindus in the country has dipped below 80% for the first time even as the community still makes for a lion’s share of 79.8% of the population, while Muslims make up the next big chunk at 14.2% and Christian, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together comprise roughly 5%.
That the Muslim population grew by 0.8% in the 10-year period while the Hindu population declined by 0.7%, was perhaps bound to create news, particularly as the figures had been compiled and were ready to be released in March 2014, but were held back by the previous United Progressive Alliance on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. The data has now been released by the ruling National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the eve of the Bihar Assembly elections.
Here's a look at how some of the front pages of newspapers across the country reported the release of these figures.
The Hindustan Times headline, which announced that Hindus were now less than 80% of the country’s population, was termed “sensationalist” by many observers on social media. Even though the subheading clarified that the rate of Muslim population growth in the country is slowing down, the heading did result in some eyebrows being raised.
How to write a headline that sensationalises a sober fact pic.twitter.com/Jutrx7kxFD
— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) August 26, 2015
The Hindu, on the other hand, highlighted the fact that the Muslim population growth rate has actually slowed down over the last decades.
The Telegraph, meanwhile, went with this clever graphic to display just how large the Hindu population is in the country as compared to other religions.
The Times group's Navbharat Times went for an explosive headline that literally translates to "The political data of religion", and chose to highlight the fact that the growth rate of Muslim population was the fastest.
Dainik Jagran too pointed out that the Muslim share in the population has increased.
Amar Ujala made use of graphics to say the same thing and announced that the growth rate of Hindus was slower than that of Muslims.
The Gujarat edition of the Rajasthan Patrika highlighted the 79.8% Hindus and 14.2% Muslim figures while presenting a pie-chart of the respective share of various religions in the total population. It also highlighted that the growth rates across all religions had, in fact, slowed down.
Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna in Maharashtra ran with the protests by the Patel community for reservations in Gujarat as its lead story. However, the story on the census data roared that Hindus were still strong in Hindustan [India] with an exclamation mark.
On the other hand, Lokmat pointed out that in spite of the reduction in the birth rate, the percentage of Muslims in the population has risen.
In Karnataka, Udayvani Karnataka ran the story with the headline “Muslims increase more than Hindus! Percent of Hindus declines”.
However, the same newspaper had a different and more tempered headline in its English edition and the exclamation mark was gone too. “Hindu population declined; Muslims increased: 2011 census,” the headline said.
Prajvani, another Kannada newspaper, ran with “Rise of the Muslim population” as the headline along with “Religious census: The declining number of Hindus” as the tag for the story.
The Punjabi Jagran said, "Hindus and Sikhs decline as Muslims rise".
The Punjabi Tribune took the same approach and said, "Hindu and Sikh population declines in the country"
In Gujarat, the Divya Bhaskar’s headline announced that the Hindu population fell by 0.7% and that of Muslims grew by 08.%, according to census data.
Ei Samay in West Bengal ran with a straightforward “Muslim population growth rate is 24%, Hindu 16.8%, says religious census” as its headline.
Assam Tribune focussed on the Muslim population in the state.
The Sangai Express from Manipur also focussed on the state and highlighted that Hindus and Christians were approximately the same number in the state.